Kelly Walsh had a to-do list coming into this season and that list contained some lofty goals.
One of them was to go undefeated in the West Conference, an achievement the Trojans fell just short of after losing 2-1 to Rock Springs in April.
They did accompolish a different one by earning the top seed in the Class 4A West Regional Tournament. But the follow-up goal of winning the the regional tournament at their own Tom Staffileno Activity Complex ended after a marathon of emotional torment.
Kelly Walsh rallied from 2-0 down with two goals in 3 minutes to force overtime before falling in the sixth round of the shootout, 3-2 (5-4), on Friday afternoon to No. 3 seed Jackson.
“The emotions of that game were incredible,” Kelly Walsh head coach Jerry Realing said. “They got the first punches and they stumbled us and we came back with our own in the second half.
“And then it was both teams just playing on guts.”
The match was easily the most competitive of the regional tournament to that point and it couldn’t happen until this year.
Jackson, the two-time defending Class 3A champion, clinched their 10th consecutive state tournament berth with a win on Thursday. This year, however, is their first in Class 4A.
“We’ve been working for it for a long time,” Jackson goalkeeper Paige Asbell said. “Since 3A we were definitely ready for the challenge to move up and I think it’s been awesome for us and a great challenge to learn more about ourselves and about each other.”
Sophie Delahaye opened the scoring by beating the Trojans’ back line before Abby Brazil scored off a rebound just inside of halftime.
Then the toughness of the top-seeded Trojans came through with the second-half whistle.
Bailey Neff, who Jackson gameplanned to mark at all times, found herself with enough space to send a through ball to Abree Hill near the top of the box. Hill put a touch on it and recovered before sending the ball into the back of the net.
Just two minutes later Brooke Johnson found an open Chelsea Thornburgh to finish from close range, taking the Trojans from shut out to tied with the two-time defending Class 3A champions in less than 3 minutes.
Both teams traded blows, for the remainder of regulation and overtime. With groggy legs and pumping lungs, both teams looked helpless as the officials signaled the end of overtime and the beginning of the shootout.
Jackson shot first and put the pressure on. Their goalkeeper felt the pressure with every shot, especially after the Broncs fell behind.
“I just get up there and look at the ball, honestly,” Asbell said. “I just try to stay calm and ready and not think too much of where it might go.”
KW’s Johnson stepped in second and drilled her penalty kick. Bailey Neff, who left at the end of regulation with a leg cramp, stepped in fourth for the Trojans.
Nicole Klungness, forced to leave the Gillette match with a knee injury, returned to the pitch and played the match’s duration.
If there was fight to be had, the Trojans showed it until their legs couldn’t carry them anymore.
“That’s what teamwork is all about and that’s what you expect,” Realing said. “When you’re down you’ve got to look around and be able to depend on these girls. And we played hard.”
While the Broncs will be playing for the No. 1 seed in their first year in Class 4A, the Trojans are forced to gather themselves on short sleep for the early morning consolation match on Saturday.