After that dramatic late-season push of three wins in the final week of the season to win the 4A West Conference regular season and capture the conference’s automatic bid to state, the Kelly Walsh boys soccer team fell flat.
The Trojans scored 11 combined goals in the final four matches of the regular season to put themselves in that position, and finished the regular season with a near-perfect 3-0 win over Rock Springs. But Kelly Walsh was held scoreless through 180 minutes of soccer at regionals. And just like that the regular-season conference champions earned the No. 4 seed from the west and a quarterfinal match with undefeated Thunder Basin.
The situation isn’t as dire as the black-and-white outcomes make them out to be, though. Kelly Walsh’s first loss at regionals came in a 1-0 decision against Green River that saw the Trojans create multiple scoring chances. But instead of going into the back of the net, those shots sailed just beyond the bars. Plus, Green River came into that match with a new formation, prompted by the lopsided loss to Kelly Walsh the week before. Then came the 1-0 overtime loss to Jackson where the Trojans once again squandered scoring opportunities and came away with nothing to show for it.
Perhaps that’s the best thing to have happened to the Trojans coming into state. Sure, it causes a tougher match-up in the first round, but the Trojans struggled with consistency all season. Modest winning streaks were snapped with head-scratching road losses in the middle of the season. That was followed by a 3-3 draw with Star Valley, which looks better than it did at the time after the Braves won the regional championship.
So what Kelly Walsh needs this weekend, going into yet another state tournament, is consistency. That starts at the back line, which has leaned on standouts like Logan Soliz at points this season. The Trojans will also need young talent like Hayden Hollinger to play to their potential. Sophomore Colten Atkinson led Class 4A with 14 goals going into regionals and he remains one of the Trojans’ best scoring options despite his youth. Then there’s quality players waiting in the wings like Juan Martinez and Cody Redmond, who help the Trojans dictate tempo up top.
Goalkeeper Jevon Davis has played well down the stretch and he’ll likely be asked to stop multiple chances against the powerful Bolts on Thursday. Thunder Basin will create chances, just like Kelly Walsh will (both teams had 36 goals at the end of the regular season).
After the disappointing weekend the Trojans had at regionals, they enter Jackson as driven as anyone.