One look at the two Worland teams that took to the fields of Big Horn Equestrian Center on the first day of the 2017 Wyoming State High School Soccer Championships, and no one would imagine that both programs were still searching for their first state championships.
The boys knocked off a promising Riverton team while the girls held off Star Valley in the quarterfinals.
But the reality was that neither team had made that final leap despite previous chances.
Head coach Ron Overcasts’ Warriors made their 11th state appearance with a stunning record playing the loaded Northwest Conference. It took 100 minutes, but finally those same Warriors fell to talented Torrington in the semifinals, depriving the boys of their second championship game berth in three seasons.
Meanwhile, the girls team was making waves thorough the weekend.
A win over Newcastle put the Warriors in the tournament, a spot that should have never been questioned.
Despite losses to conference rival Cody and Class 4A opponents, including a forfeit loss to Green River, the Warriors were always near the top of Class 3A. They just had the unfortunate luck of being overshadowed by the most competitive conference in Wyoming state soccer, with eventual state champion Cody at the top.
“I look at McKayla Moss, Hannah Bailey, Genevieve Sauers, Jules Novakovich, I know every player on that team,” Worland head coach Danielle Warren said. “Every single one of them works hard and I think the skill level is pretty even, the determination is very even, the only difference is — I think — my girls had to go through two very tough teams to get there.”
Warren knew all about the Fillies going into their state championship match against Cody, having coached against them since taking over as head coach in 2013.
She was upbeat about her team’s chances going into the championship match, that Cody won 2-1 on a second-half go-ahead score by Sauers.
Most of that was because of the leadership on all sides of her team.
“My best are the fact that I have two seniors in Shania McGarvin and Hannah Ozmon that want to win,” Warren said after their semifinal win. “And one leads my defense and one leads my offense and they work their butts off. ...
“When you have that kind of leadership, the sky’s the limit.”
Both McGarvin and Ozmon were honored as Wyoming Coaches Association All-State selections, in addition to teammates BreAnna Parra, Carly King and Casey Wassum.
Ozmon was the one leading the offense, alongside Parra and Wassum. The senior forward/midfielder finished with 15 goals while Wassum, a junior, scored a team-high 22 goals and Parra, just a freshman, trailed Wassum by just one score.
Ozmon also led Class 3A with 23 assists and Wassum was second in the class with 17.
McGarvin led the defense alongside Ellyse Russell, Kaeli Martinez and goalkeeper Hannah McEndree.
Worland’s defense pitched five shutouts throughout the season. McEndree finished with 120 saves, good enough for fifth in 3A. McEndree received All-Conference honors from the WCA.
This year’s championship game loss meant two straight seasons ended in runner-up finishes for the Warriors.
“My starting players come out, maybe they’ve never played soccer before,” Warren said, “and they’re playing with some of the top girls in the state. Obviously that makes you better. That just continues and perpetuates itself.”
While Worland lost some seniors to graduation, a run of youth may keep the team near the top.
Junior Casey Wassum’s younger sister, Kate, was a freshman this year and stepped in as a defensive midfielder. Parra was 13 years old, playing on a U15 boys youth team, when she became the youngest player ever recruited by the Wyoming 307 girls’ soccer team.
This season ended one step short of the dream, just like the season that preceded it. But every successful year the Warriors have brings the hope of finally breaking through the following year.
“It’s nice for them to see the heart that these seniors have and to give and everything like that,” Warren said. “It’s fun.”