Soccer Jamboree

Kelly Walsh’s Ashley Sanchez tries to push the ball past Sheridan’s Kaylee Abernatha during the Casper Jamboree last month.

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune

The 2017 high school soccer season officially began Thursday when Cheyenne Central defeated Gering, Nebraska, by a 10-goal mercy rule, but it didn’t kick into gear until Friday afternoon when the annual Casper Jamboree got underway.

There were a few early season classics as well as some lopsided matches, but all of the Jamboree was played over two nicer-than-usual days for soccer. It was only slightly windy, about the best that could have been hoped for with mid-March in Casper.

Of the 20 matches played over the course of the weekend at Kelly Walsh and Natrona, there were a few things that stood out.

Here are some of the first impressions of performances at the Jamboree:

Dynamic, young Trojans

The Kelly Walsh girls started with a 4-1 victory over Sheridan before an emphatic 9-0 win over Buffalo, looking good throughout the weekend.

Making the feat even more impressive is that the Trojans did it with very little senior leadership. Five of the six seniors (Chelsea Thornburgh, Sara Lamb, Brooke Johnson, Bailey Neff, Sydnee Jensen and Taylor Bright) started in the opener against Sheridan, with Bright flanked by talented underclassmen off the bench.

One of those was sophomore Ashley Sanchez, whose touches, passes and speed on the wing opened a lot of eyes.

The Trojans passed well, swiftly moving the ball from the midfielders to the forwards and challenged Broncs goalkeeper Jess Tracy for the full 80 minutes. Their back line played fast, keeping the pressure off freshman goalkeeper Katie Johnson.

Obviously, all of their weapons returned in the thorough beating of the Class 3A Bison.

Mustangs tough

Despite the scoreboard showing a 2-0 loss to Gillette in the opening game there were a lot of positives to draw from for Natrona.

The Mustangs’ offense pressured the Gillette back line with midfield passes to the corner, allowing Natrona to utilize its speed on the outside and strike with crosses against the recovering defense.

Even the midfield, which appeared to have been the weak link resulting in the two goals, stiffened late and caused the Camels to try and bypass the midfield with long passes from full backs to forwards.

Natrona also couldn’t connect on the final pass or make a proper strike to test the goalkeeper on Friday but did find the scoring touch on Saturday in a 2-1 win over Sheridan.

The early favorite

If there was one girls team to expect to play for the Class 4A state championship in Sheridan, that would be Gillette.

The Camels overwhelmed Natrona in a 11-1 win on Friday before defeating three-time defending Class 3A champion Jackson 3-0 on Saturday.

Gillette showed quickness all over the pitch and immediately looked to counter after seizing possession. It was only a matter of seconds between an intercepted pass or a precise tackle and a well-rounded Gillette attack that wasn’t limited to only the forwards.

With one weekend in the books, the season proper begins this week, which includes big matches as Jackson returns to Casper to play Natrona on Thursday and Kelly Walsh on Friday.

This story has been condensed. Find the original story in the Casper Star-Tribune or on trib.com.

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