Goals, at least those that the Wyoming Cowgirls aspire to, have been elevated this season. The ones they tally on the field haven’t changed at all, and that might be a blessing for this year’s squad.
The Cowgirls come off a wildly successful season after winning the regular-season Mountain West Conference championship. But then came the double-overtime loss to New Mexico in the semifinals of the MW tournament. That not only ended the season, but also a certain era of Cowgirls soccer.
Wyoming’s new era officially kicks off on Thursday night when the Cowgirls open the 2019 season in El Paso, Texas, against UTEP. A lot of players the Cowgirls field this week — and in the exhibition win over FC Boulder on Sunday — will receive heightened roles from last year’s transformative season.
“We graduated a very impactful class, having seven seniors that played a lot helped and helped our team achieve the goals that we achieved,” Wyoming head coach Pete Cuadrado said at the annual fall media day on Aug. 2. “I still think we’ll be very talented but our experience level drops a little bit. We’ll really rely on a couple of players that are here to stay the course and get us to where we need to be this season.”
Currently, 18 of the Cowgirls’ 27 players this season are underclassmen. A few have already shown promise. Sophomore Amber Vokoun, freshman Sydney Miller (Cheyenne East) and sophomore Indianna Asimus all scored in the 4-2 exhibition match against FC Boulder.
Miller is one of six Wyoming natives on this year’s team alongside Gillette graduates Kennedy Schomer and Molly Kuhbacher, Thunder Basin graduate DeLaney Hallcroft and Laramie graduates Madison Barrick and Sekoya Romero. This team’s tie to the Wyoming community has been reinforced over the years and will take its next big step this season.
In the non-conference finale, Wyoming will host South Dakota at Thunder Basin High School in Gillette. That Sept. 19 match is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
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“We’ve had campers in for our team camp and about 40 of them were from Gillette and they were already talking about it,” Cuadrado said. “Our coaches are talking about it, too. We’re excited. We think it’s just going to be a great atmosphere.”
It’s unclear if that match’s outcome would potentially impact Wyoming’s record non-conference home winning streak. No other Division I team in the country has successfully defended its home field since 2013. The Cowgirls’ home opener at the Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex comes on Aug. 28 against Northern Colorado. That starts a streak of four consecutive home matches, including one of the biggest in the program’s history.
Baylor comes to Laramie for a match on Sept. 6. The two played in Waco during the 2017 season in 100-degree heat and Baylor came out on top in double-overtime. The Bears went on to make the NCAA Elite Eight that season. Baylor is the preseason No. 14 team in the country by United Soccer Coaches.
“That’s going to be a big game for us at home so we’re hoping to get a lot of people out there making some noise at the game,” Cuadrado said. “Their coach is a good friend of mine and he’s already asking about the altitude. They’re nervous about the altitude but it’s something we really enjoy.”
A win in that match could go a long ways for the Cowgirls this season. With a small leadership group — headed by captains Summer Taube and Michaela Stark — this team knows there’s big shoes to fill. But the players also know the best way to do that is by putting their own best foot forward.
“We’ve done a great job of being in the top six in my time here and that gets us in the conference tournament,” Cuadrado said. “Then anything can happen in the game of soccer. So once we get there we know we can accomplish things and that’s our goal, first and foremost.”