Photo by Anna M. Kunz
EVANSTON — “It feels really good,” Lady Red Devils soccer head coach Brian Richans began after his team defeated the Lady Braves of Star Valley, 3-1. Evanston nearly scored a shutout against one of the top five teams in the 3A classification. In Richins’ tenure with the soccer program, a win over the Lady Braves has eluded Evanston, including when the Lady Braves and Lady Red Devils were competing as conference rivals.
“I think we played the highest quality of soccer we have ever played,” Richins told the Herald. “We had our lapses, don’t get me wrong, but there were points on the field today that we looked as good as we have ever looked.”
The Lady Braves were desperately trying to avoid the shutout, and finally corralled around the Evanston goal to slip one past the Lady Red Devils’ defense, with about 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
The coach was asked if the lap around the field by the Lady Red Devils and their coaches was of the victory variety.
“We always take a lap together at the conclusion of the game, but it sure feels good to take that lap when you’ve got a victory.”
Tara Fry scored the first goal for Evanston in a somewhat unorthodox fashion, but sometimes that’s the way the ball bounces — and it did bounce, right over the Star Valley goalkeeper’s head. But Richins’ credited his three forwards for barreling down on the Lady Braves goalkeeper a good portion of the game, putting more pressure on Star Valley’s defense, which allows that type of fluke goal to take place if focus is lost. But the coach also praised Fry.
“Tara has been a weapon all year along with her big leg,” Richins added. “She has a tremendous leg. She kicks it well, and it carries, even into strong, strong winds, she can clear it out.”
Freshman Clarrisa Barton notched her first varsity goal for the second Lady Red Devils’ score.
“She came on, charged the ball, beat a girl, and then put it right over the top of their goalkeeper,” Richins described the hustle play.
“And then we finished off with her sister, Adrianne,” Richins detailed of the sophomore Barton sister. “Her goal was the result of a great hustle play, as well. She placed the kick around the keeper and it just rolled in. Nothing spectacular, but to me, it was huge. For all of us, it was huge.”
Evanston had moved out of sixth place in the standings in the 4A West Conference, after defeating the Lady Tigers of Rock Springs. But a Lady Tiger upset of the third-place team in the conference, the Lady Trojans of Kelly Walsh, elevated Rock Springs over Evanston, so the Friday match-up could have huge implications.
“We’re looking forward to having Rock Springs and Riverton here this weekend,” the coach asserted. “Both of those teams probably have a speed advantage over us, and there are a couple of girls on each team we really have to watch out for.”
After a reflective pause, with the smile never leaving his face, Richins then added, “But if we play with the intensity we demonstrated today, we will be just fine.”
Belief and confidence in themselves was mission-critical in having a legitimate shot to beat anyone — the key factor the coach had alluded to in previous interviews. He likes the feeling of having momentum to carry into the final two days of practice, before hosting on Friday and Saturday.
Saturday’s matchup with the Riverton Lady Wolverines will end the regular season at Evanston Middle School. Junior varsity action will start at 10 a.m. The varsity squads are scheduled to take the field at noon, as Riverton requested the time be moved up to be able to get their squads back on the bus and on the road for home in more timely fashion. Before the games, though, the four Lady Red Devils seniors — Courtlan Sadd, Destanee Cook, Tara Fry and Bekka Kunz — will be honored.
Evanston will try to move out of the basement of the conference standings in order to have a better shot at state tournament qualification. A four vs. five seed matchup is preferred to being the sixth-seed, and playing the number three team, likely Kelly Walsh, and perhaps even Green River, both of whom have had the Lady Red Devils’ number through the conference season.
The Lady Red Devils and Red Devils will both have an opportunity that only rolls around once every six years in hosting the 4A West Conference member schools of Natrona County, Kelly Walsh, Green River, Rock Springs and Riverton for the 4A West Conference regional soccer tournament. Four of the six teams will advance to the state tournament, joining four of six from the 4A East to vie for the state title.
In Evanston’s 13-year soccer history, neither the Red Devils nor the Lady Red Devils have been among those final eight teams with that chance. While the fifth-ranked Red Devils are looking promising, don’t count the Lady Red Devils out, or any team for that matter. All any team has to do is get on a roll for two or three games at the regional level, and continue playing soundly through the state soccer tournament to spring upsets on the way to a title.