Four Casper girls were part of two Wyoming soccer teams that made history last month. The High Plains Select Under-17 and Under-16 teams both qualified for the U.S. Club Soccer National Cup Finals in Denver, becoming the first soccer teams from Wyoming to qualify for a national tournament.
Upcoming juniors Paige Hill (Kelly Walsh) and Hannah Trumbull (Natrona County) played on the U17 team, while upcoming sophomores Madison Burnett (Kelly Walsh) and Jordan Redmond (Natrona County) were on the U16 team.
“It was a great experience,” said Hill. “People usually don’t know who we are in Wyoming and how we play. We went out there and we played aggressive and we showed the other states that we’re just as good as they are.”
Both teams left their marks in Denver, with the U17 team making it to the semifinals before losing 2-1 in overtime to a team from Texas. While the U16 team finished 0-2-1 in pool play, the two goals it scored against the top-ranked team from California in an 8-2 defeat prevented that squad from advancing to the semifinals.
The U17 team opened with convincing victories against teams from Tennessee (5-1) and Alabama (6-0) before ending pool play with a 3-all tie against a Massachusetts team that ended up winning the tournament.
“After the game the Massachusetts coach said he would prefer to play anybody else than us because I think he knew we were on their heels,” head coach Jason Redmond said. “This was a team that was practicing four times a week. We practiced one time, and that was last November.”
The tourney came to an end for the U17 team with the overtime loss to Texas. But the High Plains Select U17 girls proved that they belonged on the big stage. The team proved it by winning the U.S. Club Soccer National Cup Northwest Regional earlier this summer in Seattle, and again in Denver.
“We didn’t back down at all,” goalkeeper Trumbull said. “We wanted to go out there and show that we could keep up with these girls, no matter where they were from. Even in the loss, we knew that we worked hard and we put it all out there.
“It was stressful, but it was fun and exciting for all of us.”
Hill and Trumbull were both all-state selections this past season, along with five of their teammates — Cheyenne Central’s Makyleigh Howard, Ainsley Basitch, Eliza Grace-Smith and McKell Brenchley and Rock Springs’ Alyssa Bedard. Add in Brady Deimling, Alex Michael, Kendra Michael and Peyton Roswadovski from state champion Thunder Basin, and the four Class 4A semifinalists from May’s state tournament were well-represented.
“These girls did something that no team in our state had ever been able to do,” Redmond said. “And these girls were all very supportive of each other, which isn’t always easy when you get a group of all-stars together.”
It might not have been easy, but the formula definitely worked. After playing against each other for years, the now-teammates discovered strength in their togetherness.
“I created bonds with players that I’m usually just used to playing against,” Hill said. “I got to see them as teammates and we learned that we could trust each other.”
“These girls were under a lot of stress because in those high-profile tournaments you can’t afford to lose a game,” Redmond added. “I think what they did just shows their soccer IQ and their level of competitiveness as individuals and as a team.”
As for what’s next, Redmond is looking at the team playing at another tournament in November.
“We’re not done,” he said. “People might think that, but we’ve got these girls for another couple years. We need a little bit of a break right now, but we’re looking at maybe playing in a tournament in Kansas City in November.”
Even though the High Plains Select U16 team didn’t win a game at the national tournament, the squad earned its shot by winning the Northwest Regional. And, just like the U17 team, the younger team learned some valuable lessons on the national stage.
“It was a really good experience because I’m used to playing against these girls and not with them,” Burnett said. “At first we were trying to figure each other out, but we managed to all come together and start having fun. It was really cool to see us come together and make a team that was able to do these types of things.
“Individually, I think I proved myself because I did everything I could on the field. I hurt my hamstring, but I managed to tough it out. I looked to my right and I saw that my opponent was in pain too. And that let me know that I needed to work just as hard as she could.”
Making it to the national stage had a special significance for Jordan Redmond, because her father was the coach.
“I’ve been playing for my dad since I was a kid,” she said. “I know it meant a lot to him. He’s been doing this for years and so to have this team make it to nationals was really cool for him.
“And it honestly made me feel successful because I’ve never done anything like that before, and no team from Wyoming had ever done that. We didn’t win, but it was awesome to see that we could compete against all those teams.”