RAWLINS — Lady Red Devils soccer recorded a split in action this past Thursday and Friday, with a 3-1 non-conference road win over the Lady Outlaws in Rawlins, and falling 1-6 in 4A West Conference action to the most prolific scoring team in the state, at Green River.
Coach Brian Richins reported favorable weather in Rawlins, with just a breeze accompanying the cool temperatures. Adrianne Barton’s first-half goal put the Lady Red Devils on the board first, but Richins reported mental lapses on behalf of Evanston’s defense allowed Rawlins to score on one of the few runs the Lady Outlaws were able to achieve, on Evanston’s side of the field.
“We played pretty well at times, but were also rough and ragged,” Richins told the Herald of the game with Rawlins. “I think our final tally was 27 shots on goal, and we held the ball on their end of the field for all but about three runs they were able to break out with.”
The Rawlins score, which bounced off one of the Lady Outlaws before crossing into the net, was deemed “unfortunate” by Richins, and had the teams tied, 1-1, at the half.
“We just had a really hard time connecting passes to be in an open spot to shoot,” Richins expressed.
Destanee Cook put two past the Rawlins defense in the second half for the 3-1 win, which Richins’ described as “much needed,” but also countered with, “In a game like that, you can come away feeling more frustrated than happy,” alluding to dominating the field position but seeing a plethora of missed scoring opportunities.
At Green River on Friday
“They’re just something,” Richins said of the Lady Wolves. “They’re so athletic and really handle the ball well.”
Richins’ affirmed some of Green River’s goals were the direct result of Evanston mistakes, but noted there was nothing passive about his team’s style of play, and that Evanston was playing aggressively when mistakes were made, a quality the coach much prefers to passivity.
“We really had a hard time holding the ball in our attack against Green River. They really had us there,” the coach asserted.
Green River led 4-0 at the break, but Evanston came back to make it a 1-2 second half effort.
Hunter Jetkoski-DeFries scored her first varsity goal in the final three minutes to avoid the shutout, “on a free-kick, just beyond the 18,” Richins shared, referring to the penalty area from the goal line toward the midfield, 44 yards wide by 18 yards deep.
In the Herald’s preview story, the goal-scoring prowess of Green River’s Morgan Wyant and Tessa Williams, who had combined to score 30 goals, far and away beyond any other duo in the state, was mentioned. If those two were not enough, another standout, Taylianna Cutler, had recently returned to the team from injury, and scored the only goal Green River needed to upset Natrona County last week. So the Lady Wolves are loaded with talent.
Richins fully realized the task at hand would be most difficult in contending with Green River, but avows the woes the Lady Red Devils have experienced have more to do with his team’s mindset than the tough competition Evanston faces.
“We’re having a hard time fighting off our tradition of losing,” the coach candidly offered. “We’re fighting ourselves more than anything else. It’s a matter of getting our minds right, getting our focus right.”
With a conference win, the first in seven years for Evanston, earlier in the season over Rock Springs, Evanston vacated the basement of the conference standings, sending the Lady Tigers into sixth place. This past weekend, Richins was very surprised when Rock Springs upset Kelly Walsh, moving Evanston back into sixth place.
The coach is referring to this weekend’s games with Rock Springs and Riverton as “must-wins,” with the regional tournament Evanston will host looming on the horizon. While anything is possible, Richins doesn’t look near as favorably on a match-up with the third-seeded team, should the Lady Red Devils remain in the sixth spot, and the only way to rise above sixth place is to win.
A four-seed versus five-seed opening round game seems much more promising to be in a good position to qualify for the state tournament, like the Evanston boys, for the first time ever.
The coach did state his belief that his team has the physical skills and talent to win more than what they have, and potentially still could, but it comes down to the mental aspects, chiefly focus and belief.
“Honestly, from a talent standpoint, I think we’re as good as Riverton, better than Rock Springs, and could be on par with a team the caliber of Kelly Walsh,” Richins asserted, “but it’s their belief in themselves — that’s where it has to come from.”
With many distractions, in the form of other activities his soccer girls have taken part in as of late, coupled with injuries, the roster has been depleted. Evanston only took two seniors to Rawlins and Green River.
“I looked out and we had four freshmen on the field, in a varsity game. Ideally, there should not be room for freshmen at the varsity level,” Richins said.
Goalkeeper-turned-midfielder, and arguably one of the best Lady Red Devils players and team leaders, Bekka Kunz, has been sidelined with a concussion, suffered in Evanston’s win against Rock Springs. The head coach is hoping the versatile senior is able to receive medical clearance to return for this weekend’s games.
Evanston will host 3A rival Star Valley on this final day of April, before playing host to the Lady Tigers and Lady Wolverines on Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4. They are set to play Star Valley at 5 p.m. from EMS Field. Should there be a late change past the Herald’s press deadline, look for a schedule change update on our Facebook page.