The reality of athletics: For someone or some team to win, the others have to lose.
In soccer, that is an especially cruel inevitability. One team could dominate possession and bombard defenses but one unlucky bounce of the ball is all that’s needed to derail hopes of victory.
While four teams from three separate schools in two classifications won the same single championship, there were seven other schools in each tournament that didn’t get to raise a state championship at the 2017 Wyoming State High School Soccer Championships.
Each one of those programs had a unique story to tell, further adding interest and excitement to an already special sporting event.
The Riverton girls made their first appearance in over a decade only to fall victim to Cody’s championship run.
Star Valley, the only team to beat those same Fillies this season, were upset in the first round by eventual runner-up Worland. The Lady Braves answered by outscoring opponents 9-0 in two matches to win the consolation championship.
The Bison from Buffalo won the third-place match in their 17th tournament appearance, the most of any 3A team.
Sophomore Eli Olsen was later named Wyoming Coaches Association Underclassman of the Year after leading Buffalo with 16 goals, the fourth-most of any player in 3A. Three of her teammates (sophomore Addy Sweckard, senior Shea Musselman and sophomore Teaghan Sweckard) scored 13 goals or more. All of them were also WCA All-State selections.
Buffalo got past Lander and junior all-state goalkeeper Abby Hamilton as the Tigers were looking for their first state championship.
Lander went into the tournament with the momentum of their six-match undefeated streak stalled because of winning their quadrant. The Lady Tigers needed overtime to fend off Powell before losing to Cody in the semifinals.
“We were one of the teams that was fortunate enough to skip regionals,” head coach Gabe Joyes said. “I think that might of affected us slightly negatively.”
The Lander boys were also beat in the semifinals by Cody, who was forced to play with nine men for the final 7 minutes. Lander, led by five all-state selections including 3A leading scorer Daniel Lobera (24 goals), defeated Worland in the third-place match.
Those Tigers scored the most goals (11) of any team during the state tournament.
Star Valley, the first round opponent of eventual champion Cody, went through Douglas and Riverton to win the consolation championship in the program’s eighth appearance at the state tournament.
“Lander, Star Valley, every team we played, the 3A was one of the toughest,” Cody head coach Kory Jansma said after the Broncs won the championship. “Nobody knew who was going to win. It was one of those seasons where everyone had a shot at it.”
The Douglas Bearcats were somewhat of an underdog story. Making just their second tournament appearance, the Bearcats were led by senior Eduardo Troiani’s 10 goals and sophomore Vince Haukereid’s 99 saves.
Riverton, who lost to Class 4A West top seed Rock Springs 2-1 at the beginning of the year, was primed for its first state championship before Worland outlasted the Wolverines in the first round.
The Jackson girls, who were the two-time defending champion in Class 3A, made the leap to 4A this season and finished with a consolation championship. The Lady Broncs had three all-state selections, none of which were leading scorer Raychl Fairbanks.
Cheyenne Central, the top seed from the East Conference, was bumped out in the semifinals by eventual champion Gillette but recovered in the third-place match with a win over cross-town rival East. Those programs combined for 40 state tournament appearances and 13 state championships.
The youth of Rock Springs was showcased throughout the season before being overshadowed in the tournament. But with all-state selections in junior Margaret Hamilton and freshman Alyssa Bedard, plus one of the state’s best goalkeepers in junior Alyssa Vigil, the Lady Tigers are favorites to return to Sheridan next season.
On the boys side, Green River pulled off an incredible upset over returning champion Laramie in the quarterfinals. Twin powers Patrick and Gregory Marchal will return next season in addition to sophomore midfielder Chase Stoeger and junior cohort Christian Alatorre, giving the Wolves hope for 2018.
Green River fell to Kelly Walsh in an instant-classic-marathon-hold-on-to-your-hats-unbelievable 16-round shootout in the third-place game in 4A. Sweetwater rival Rock Springs’ incredible season ended with just one goal in two matches at the state tournament.
Natrona, who nearly topped East top seed Central in the overtime quarterfinal, dispatched Gillette and Laramie to win the consolation championship.
“It’s the state tournament,” Natrona head coach Chad Miller said. “Seeds don’t really matter, stats don’t matter. It’s one game and ‘Let’s go see what we can do.’”
Some of the seniors who competed in the tournament walked away with championships. All of the seniors who participated came away with an experience.
If one team wins, the other team loses. That’s the way the game is played. But the losses don’t outweigh the ride.