Ladies end historic season with consolation championship

By: 
Sonja Karp

Photo by Tyler Sage/NLJ

Sammi Simmons (left) and MacKenzie Conzelman (right) celebrate after Simmons hit the first and only goal for the Lady Dogies in their opening state tournament contest against Mountain View. The goal was also the first of the year for Simmons.

 

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Reporter

 

It was an historical season for the Lady Dogie Soccer team as they finished with only two losses, two ties and 10 wins, with 10 contests ending in shutouts for the squad. Head coach Cami Willyard, in her first year at the helm, challenged her team to “hold the rope” throughout the year — and the girls did just that. 

“I read the girls a story early in the year about being a good teammate and holding the rope for each other if they were ‘dangling from a cliff,’ no matter what,” Willyard began. “So that became our theme for the year.”

Last weekend the squad not only held the rope, but climbed it as well to battle back from a disappointing first round loss against Mountain View at the state tournament in Cheyenne — which knocked them out of contention for a state title — to defeat both Riverton and Buffalo to take home the first hardware for the Lady Dogie soccer program since Willyard herself was a senior in 2008. 

“The weekend ended very well, and we came out happy,” Willyard said. “We brought hardware home, though it wasn’t the hardware we wanted, but it was still pretty awesome!”

Willyard and her crew went into the tournament fully aware that they would be up against it, taking on a talented docket of west side teams, and though they held the first seed from the east, their quarter-final matchup against the No. 4-seeded Mountain View Wranglers was going to be a challenge.

The Lady Dogies began the contest on Thursday in Cheyenne with the wind playing to their advantage and dominated offensively for the first half of play. At 30 minutes in, MacKenzie Conzelman earned a corner kick and Gabby McVay stepped out to take it on the backside. She entered the ball to Sammi Simmons who finished on the backside to put her team up 1-0, and also to pick up her first goal of the year. 

“We had quite a few opportunities in the first half and we did a really good job all weekend of earning corner kicks,” Willyard declared. “Also, with Sammi’s goal, that took us up to 13 players who have scored this season, which is pretty awesome.”

After dominating for 39 and a half minutes, the Lady Dogies gave up a through ball and with 20 seconds to go in the half the Wranglers took advantage of it to score a one-on-one against goalkeeper Angel Perez, which took the two teams into the break tied at 1-1.

The Lady Dogies held strong for the next 40 minutes to end regulation, still sitting at 1-1. In the two 10-minute overtimes, both teams battled defensively resulting in a shootout to decide the winner. In this scenario, each team alternates attempting five penalty kicks which meant that both goalkeepers were put in a position that no one would envy.

Alaina Laurence stepped up as the first to shoot and her ball got past the keeper to put Newcastle up 2-1. Mountain View answered in kind to tie the game again, then Conzelman was up and missed wide left. The Wranglers made their second attempt to take the one-point lead, after which McVay shot just a tad high and hit the crossbar. The third Lady Wrangler also found the back of the net which ended the contest with a 4-2 Newcastle loss that signaled the end of the state title run for the squad.

“It was heartbreaking,” Willyard sighed. “We had worked on PKs all week, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

On Friday, the team had to bounce back and battle the Riverton Lady Wolverines for a chance to take home the consolation championship. Conditions were sketchy as the morning dawned foggy and rainy, however, the Lady Dogies dominated in the loser out contest to take the 1-0 win.

Laurence scored her second goal of the tournament and the only goal of the day at 14 minutes into the contest with a banana kick from the corner that went straight into the net.

“We’ve been working all season long on getting corners and, man, did we do that last weekend,” Willyard said. “We had a lot of other opportunities as well, and we just dominated and held tough for the remaining 66 minutes to take the win.”

For their final game of the year, Newcastle had the opportunity to prove once and for all who was the better team as they faced off against Buffalo in the consolation championship on Saturday morning. After narrowly edging them out for the No. 1 seed from the east, there were some doubters despite the fact that Newcastle tied and then defeated the Lady Bison during the regular season. 

No doubters remained, however, after Newcastle defeated Buffalo once again with a 4-2 score, bringing home the fifth place consolation championship trophy.

Fighting through a stomach bug that hit a few of the players during the night, the Lady Dogies dominated and went up 3-0 on the Lady Bison in the first half.

“In that first half, we had corner kick after corner kick,” Willyard began. “Credit their defense though, because we didn’t have a ton of shots on goal. But also credit our defense and midfield for keeping the ball on our offensive third of the field.”

Seven minutes into the contest, McVay was tripped in the box earning a PK for the squad. Laurence got the nod and finished with a shot high and on the left side of the net. 

At minute 25, Laurence sent in a corner kick to Conzelman who touched it out to Claire Beastrom, who found the back of the net.

Three minutes later, Laurence took another corner kick and this time the ball bounced around in the box until it found Beastrom again, this time at the 18 yard line.

“Claire had a sweet move to her left foot and then finished in the low right corner,” Willyard said. “It was a really beautiful play!”

However, Newcastle let down a bit and gave up a goal to the Bison with two minutes to play in the half so went into the break with a 3-1 advantage.

“We felt really good because we dominated for the most part, but we also gave up that goal,” Willyard cautioned. “We were against the wind in the second half, so we had the attitude that it was a 0-0 game.”

Only two minutes into the second frame, the Lady Bison struck again with a high cross kick above Perez to close the gap to 3-2. 

“I got a little nervous for a little bit there,” Willyard said. “But we weathered that storm and about 10 minutes in, we found our groove, took control again and kept it.”

McVay was tripped again at the 57-minute mark, thus earning another PK opportunity for her squad. Once again, Laurence got the nod to take the long shot, went left of the wall and finished in the left side of the net.

“After that, we had momentum and I wasn’t worried anymore,” Willyard said. “It was amazing and I was just so proud of the girls. We definitely held the rope for each other.”

The Lady Dogies finished with a 10-2-2 record with their only two losses coming from Gering, Neb., in their first game of the year and the first round state tournament game which ended in a shootout.

The Lady Dogies lose 10 seniors from this year’s team so there will be some big shoes to fill next season. Emily and Claire Beastrom, Alaina Laurence and Alaina Steveson, Caitlyn Pehringer, Lara Lopez, Hailey Wehri, Becca Henkle, Sammi Simmons and Peyton Crinklaw finished their careers as Lady Dogies this season, but Willyard is confident that there will be underclassmen who are ready to step up.

“I’m losing the best group of seniors anyone could ever ask for,” Willyard nodded. “The leadership and the ‘no-drama’ attitude they exhibited was incredible, but I think they left behind a great legacy of what it means to be a senior leader. We have a lot of open spots to fill, but I feel like our younger kids have bought in and embraced that mentality so I’m really excited about next year.”

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