Destanee Cook looks to set some offense in motion during a recent match. HERALD PHOTO/Mark Madia
CASPER — In looking back at the weekend past in Casper, April 5 and 6, Lady Red Devils soccer head coach Brian Richins did not downplay his admiration for the Natrona County Fillies, who he believes hit their stride with back-to-back conference wins over Evanston and Rock Springs, in convincing fashion, 9-0 in both victories.
“Oh, man — they really got all over us. I didn’t think we played poorly,” Richins stated, drawing comparison with the slow start he felt his team experienced against Green River.
The coach instead countered with detailing the emotional high his Lady Red Devils were riding, as they had just witnessed the Red Devils achieve their first-ever win over the Natrona County Mustangs, 2-0.
“We went out there flying high, and looked like we were ready to contend, but oh, my goodness, we could not control the ball in the midfield at all,” Richins exclaimed. “Natrona started generating opportunities, then began to capitalize, and it just got away from us.”
The coach did not fault his team’s effort, but instead credited the Fillies with putting together an outstanding soccer game.
Richins shared the disappointment he knew his team felt, describing how hard they had worked in practice, and how far he believes his team has come.
“To just get pounded like that was really hard to take,” Richins expressed.
Richins responded with major line-up shifts and formation and strategy changes, overnight, between Friday’s nightcap with Natrona and Saturday’s afternoon conference tilt with the Kelly Walsh Lady Trojans.
Bekka Kunz was moved from goalkeeper to fortify the midfield, with JV goalkeeper, freshman Annie Brown, moved up to replace Kunz. The team’s 4-4-2 alignment shifted to a 4-3-3, adding strength at the forward position. Priscilla Ramirez was shifted from defense to assume the middle forward spot, “to be a big target, possess the ball and distribute,” the coach explained, and he was pleased.
“The girls are amazing,” Richins claimed with pride. “You spring that on them Saturday morning at breakfast. I drew it all up on the table, they were all crowded around, we talked through it, and explained what I wanted them to do…. They had never practiced it, but they went out and their execution was outstanding.”
The Lady Trojans did not score until the close of the first half, in penalty time. The shots on goal were even in the first half between the two 4A West teams. In their new alignment, Evanston had held even with the Lady Trojans for almost the entire first half.
“We had the corner kick advantage,” Richins added, “and things were really going our way. In the second half, we showed some inexperience. We had a couple of underclassmen miss their mark on defense, and they put a couple more past us.”
The Lady Red Devils continued to compete, as Destanee Cook, after receiving a pass from Alejandra Villalobos, got the KW goalkeeper out of position to score for Evanston near the close of the game. Though the Lady Red Devils fell 1-4, Richins was pleased with his team’s effort and execution, reiterating his team had never practiced in their new alignment, along with girls in new positions, and employing differing strategies.
“I was really happy with the way it went, and feel we have something we can build on now,” Richins said.
Evanston will have endured the challenge of soccer practice without a soccer field, through most or all of practices leading into this weekend’s away games in Rock Springs and Riverton. Practice on Evanston fields, even with the snow cleared off, could potentially do a lot of damage, in addition to the safety factors and the fruitless nature of conducting practice on a wet, muddy field. Schools with artificial turf, more mild weather conditions and lower elevations do not experience being relegated to a gym, perhaps a bit more productive than basketball practice on grass, but not much more.
The Lady Red Devils will square off with the Lady Tigers at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 12, return home, then travel to Riverton for conference showdown with the Lady Wolverines on Saturday at 1 p.m. for the varsity squads, with junior varsity kickoffs scheduled two hours prior. The Casper schools make the reciprocal trip to Evanston on April 19 and 20.
The previous schedule called for a home boys and girls varsity doubleheader with Rock Springs this Friday, but weather has hampered scheduling efforts and forced changes in the recent past, and more could follow.
Despite any of the logistical challenges and a 0-3 start to the conference season, Richins describes his team as anxious — “anxious to get better, to learn, to play, to go. I just can’t imagine them not achieving success.”
Even with the juggernaut Fillies team, Richins believes with his new formations, coupled with his team’s work ethic — though maybe not quite up to matching the quality of the Natrona County squad — his team can match up athletically, if they play to their capabilities — and playing at home? That may be enough.
But first things first. Rock Springs and Riverton are teams on Evanston’s level, as the early part of the season standings reflects. The combined record among the three teams? Two wins, 14 losses and two ties. Evanston could jump both in the standings with a pair of road wins.
Rock Springs and Green River did battle on Wednesday, with the Casper schools squaring off on Thursday. The only other 4A West match-up for the weekend has Green River at Riverton on Friday. The Lady Wolves also host a 4A East team in fifth-ranked Gillette on Saturday, in non-conference action.
Richins doesn’t know much about Rock Springs, but Riverton lost much to graduation, in particular Marcia Ashdown, currently playing soccer for the University of Wyoming, and a speedster, recalled by the last name of Oakes. The Lady Wolverines’ coach of some 26 years also retired.
Richins likes his team’s chances this weekend and, after this week, the Lady Red Devils are scheduled for five conference home games, with just Green River on the road, along with a non-conference road trip to Rawlins, in a season, weather permitting, Evanston is also set to host the 4A West Conference regional tournament. Things could turn around quite nicely.
4A West as of April 7
Natrona County — 4-0, 12 points…6-1-1, 19 points
Kelly Walsh — 3-1, 9 points… 5-3, 15 points
Green River — 2-1, 6 points…..4-1, 12 points
Riverton — 0-2, 0 points, 1-3-1… 4 points
Rock Springs — 0-2, 0 points… 1-6, 3 points
Evanston — 0-3, 0 points… 0-5-1, 1 point