JACKSON — When the dust finally settled Friday morning on the semifinals of the 2019 Wyoming State High School Class 4A Girls Soccer Championship and the talk of the West advancing two into the second round, the day finished just as it did a year prior.
Defending state champion Cheyenne Central drove through Kelly Walsh, 6-3, while Thunder Basin withstood Rock Springs to win 3-2 in a penalty shootout, setting the stage for a rematch of last year’s championship game. All of Thursday’s excitement for the West Conference’s two best teams deflated into heartache before noon.
Kelly Walsh lacked energy at the opening kickoff and Central took advantage. The Trojans’ defense withstood Central’s midfield and forwards initially but finally cracked on a goal from Zoe Lamb in the first 10 minutes. But a Trojan response from forward Melicia McIntyre, who beat the Tribe’s back line for most of Friday, drew her team level just 4 minutes later.
Central then retook the lead shortly after on a goal from Eliza-Grace Smith and another from forward Makyleigh Howard, who redirected an attempted clearance into the back of the net with her outstretched foot to give the Tribe a multi-goal advantage with just 80 seconds remaining in the first half.
“We didn’t come out and play the way that we normally play a good team, with the intensity and the fight and the passion for it,” Kelly Walsh head coach Jerry Realing said. “And to try and overcome that deficit in the second half is too hard against a team like that. We’ve got a lot to learn about the energy you bring into the game is important.”
The Trojans played with more energy out of the break but were too far behind the 8-ball. Central popped two goals in before Kelly Walsh’s Nicole Klungness pulled one back for the Trojans. That was answered with another Central goal and by that time the game was all but decided.
Still, the Trojans kept fighting with effort like that from sophomore Paige Hill. Hill’s effort against Laramie the day before was noticeable and she again brought a work ethic to the field on Friday. Almost fittingly, she willed a goal into happening by battling for possession into the box and striking a volley past the goalkeeper with a defender on her hip.
“The emotion that she puts into playing the game is great and she showed that today,” Realing said. “A kid that epitomizes, ‘Play for the moment.’ Whether you’re up six or down six, if there’s a ball around she’s going to play with a lot of intensity. That goal she scored at the end was a great goal and hard-work goal.”
Almost simultaneously, across the campus of Jackson Hole High School in William T. McIntosh Stadium, Rock Springs took Thunder Basin into overtime. Following a back-and-forth scoreless first half, a goal from Alyssa Bedard put the Tigers in front. An excellent effort from Grace Roswadovski to fight off a challenge from defender Kia Comstock and beat the keeper drew the Bolts even 12 minutes later. No one else could score and extra time was needed.
Roswadovski scored her second in the 91st minute only for the Tigers to draw level on a penalty kick from Lillian Hernandez 2 minutes later.
“We have some great senior leaders,” Thunder Basin head coach Lyle Foster said. “This will be their fourth state championship so they knew what was at stake. They didn’t back down and they refused to lose.”
The two sides went goal-for-goal until the fourth round when Bolts goalkeeper Alyssa Stumbaugh guessed correctly and caught Bedard’s attempted strike. That set the stage for Stumbaugh to turn around and step to the spot with a chance to hand Rock Springs its first loss of the season.
“I had just made the save so I was ready to go,” the senior keeper said. “I practice that shot constantly. I stay after practice and I practice that shot because I know as a fifth shooter it’s important to make it.”
The Bolts mobbed their goalkeeper and celebrated a second straight berth into the state championship against a familiar foe. Dating back to that match, the two have played four times going into Saturday’s final. Central has won all of them.
“We have the talent and ability to do it,” Stumbaugh said. “We’re going to bring it tomorrow.”