CHEYENNE — How’s this for a challenge — open the 2013 regular season against your rival who just happens to be the defending Class 4A state champion.
For the Cheyenne East girls soccer team, that was the starting point for the year.
The Lady Thunderbirds responded by forcing a 1-1 overtime tie with Cheyenne Central. Not a bad start to the season for a team that missed the state tournament last fall.
“We definitely needed a push to get us going,” East senior McKenna Horsley said.
That push might’ve arrived on Friday night.
Central started the season 0-2 with a pair of losses to teams in Colorado. But the Lady Indians returned 12 of their 20 varsity players from a team that averaged 3.45 goals per game last season. Of the seniors who were lost, only two were listed on the roster as offensive players.
That left East with a big challenge in the regular season opener. The Thunderbirds responded by limiting Central to just one goal over 100 minutes. That goal came in the 71st minute when Madi Barber bent an indefensible free kick in from about 35 feet out that tied the score.
Aside from that play, East stymied the Central offense.
“We are working really hard and trying not to let anybody get past us,” Horsley said. “Hopefully, during practice we’ll get stronger and stronger but Central is still a really good team.”
East coach Jim Gardner saw exactly what he was hoping to see from his defensive unit, along with an unexpected surprise.
Horsley and Emily Breeden are the two veterans pacing the defense along with goalie Shayne Carter. Those three played how Gardner expected.
It was senior Skylar Hatanelas who stepped up and provided a spark off the bench. Freshman Karly Thompson was the other defender he was going to play on the defensive. But Hatanelas played so well, he altered his lineup. It’s a spark Gardner is happy to see.
“Skylar stepped in and played really well so that allowed me to move Karly up and do some different things,” Gardner said. “That gives us a little more depth and a little more options.”