Red Devils win 2-1 thriller over Riverton

Mendez, Dal Ri score; Lady Devils shut out 7-0

By Don Cogger, Herald Sports Editor
Posted 4/10/24

Snapping a nearly two-year drought, the Evanston High School boys’ soccer team battled its way back into the win column last Tuesday, beating 4A West Conference foe Riverton in a 2-1 thriller …

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Red Devils win 2-1 thriller over Riverton

Mendez, Dal Ri score; Lady Devils shut out 7-0


Snapping a nearly two-year drought, the Evanston High School boys’ soccer team battled its way back into the win column last Tuesday, beating 4A West Conference foe Riverton in a 2-1 thriller in front of the home crowd at Kay Fackrell Stadium.

“The win felt great, and the way the guys did it was impressive,” said EHS head coach Brian Richins. “They took coaching really well, they applied everything we’ve been working on to a high level. And their tenacity at the end – it was just great. It was a really good win.”

The Red Devils (1-5, 1-3 in 4A West) took a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute, following a penalty in Riverton’s box. Jordan Mendez converted the penalty kick for his second goal of the season.

“Jordan Mendez scored the first goal on a penalty kick – we ended up in the box, and hit one of the Riverton kids in the hand,” Richins said. “We got a PK, and Jordan put his second one of those away this season. We allowed a goal a little later, so it was tied 1-1.”

With less than 10 minutes to play in regulation and the score still knotted at 1-1, the Red Devils were awarded a corner kick, which the newest member of the Evanston side – Italy’s Nicola Dal Ri – was able to hammer into the back of the net for the game winner.

“In the 74th minute, we were on a corner kick, and the ball bounced around the box,” Richins explained. “Nicola Dal Ri – our exchange student from Italy – finished it off and scored. We were able to make a stand after that.”

While Dal Ri is not the first exchange student to suit up for the Red Devils, Richins said the senior has adapted better than most.

“Nicola’s been great for us,” Richins said. “He’s a good, good guy – just a quality kid, and he’s really adapted well to coming here and integrating with the other players. They respected him right away, and he’s a quality player – he’s very skilled and athletic. A lot of the exchange students we’ve had were not up to the physicality of Wyoming soccer; Nicola has not shied away from it, at all. He’s been really good for us.”

The Red Devils had their best defensive performance of the season against Riverton, which Richins attributes to the team staying connected.

“Our defensive shape was better in this game than it’s been,” Richins said. “We’ve been trying to do too much individually in a lot of our games, and the Jackson game was the epitome of that – things really fell apart there. I felt like with Riverton, we did a better job of doing our jobs, and supporting each other in the jobs we had to do. Just staying sound and more connected, defensively.”

As for offense, Evanston was able to find space in the middle, as well as take advantage of set pieces.

“Offensively, we did a nice job of getting the ball forward a little quicker,” Richins said. “Giving our guys up top chances to go was good. We connected well in the midfield – we did a good job of finding space that guys could dribble into. I think both of those things were better against Riverton.”

Evanston also benefited from a strong game in goal from junior Jaeger Liechty, who earned his first win of the season.

“Jaeger had a good day in goal – he made some quality saves throughout the game,” Richins said. “One of his saves kind of saved the day for us – we had a bit of a defensive lapse, and ended up with a striker right between our center backs, ball came right to him. The striker was 1-on-1 with Jaeger, and he made a good decision to come straight out of goal and block the shot, clear out of the 18.”

Richins said it’s his hope the team uses this win as a confidence-builder for the rest of the season, as well as a template for what is possible when the team plays together.

“Across the board, we had multiple great plays from multiple players, throughout the day,” Richins said. “We didn’t win a game last year – it’s been almost a full two years since we had a win. The way we won this game – with coaches concentrating on areas of focus, and the guys going out and executing – it all came together to work out to a win.”

It’s a busy week of conference games for the Red Devils, who host powerhouse Kelly Walsh (4-2, 3-0 in 4A West) Friday and Natrona County (1-4-1, 1-3 in 4A West) Saturday.

“Big games this week – Kelly Walsh beat Jackson on Saturday, so they’ve kind of taken over as the top team in the conference,” Richins said. “We have them on Friday, then Natrona County on Saturday. I think Natrona is a team that’s comparable to us. So big games – we have the top of the conference coming to us, then a team that you feel like you’re matched up pretty equally with. Both games offer different mental and physical challenges.”

As for what the Red Devils will work on in practice this week, Richins said keeping their opponents off the scoreboard.

“We’re going to work really hard this week on developing a strategy where we make scoring goals a lot harder on teams,” Richins said. “I’ll welcome a 0-0 tie this year – I want to see a game where Jaeger gets a shutout, and we – as a team – make that happen. So we’re gonna work really hard on becoming a more stingy team, as far as goals go.”

Riverton 7,

Lady Devils 0

After giving up just two goals in the first half to visiting Riverton last Tuesday, the Lady Devils struggled to keep the Wolverines at bay in the second half, allowing five goals over the final 40 minutes in a 7-0 loss.

Sophomore keeper Adalee May finished the game with 13 saves, with several of Riverton’s goals scored on shots she initially turned away. The Lady Devils (0-4-2) will host Kelly Walsh (3-1-2) Friday and Natrona County Saturday.