By Dave Shelles
A team doesn’t go from state runner-up to next-to-last in the conference without a bit of consternation within the ranks.
Yet the Cheyenne Central girls soccer team has chatted it up and supported each other all season, no matter how disappointing the results.
In the late stages of Saturday’s 3-1 win over Gillette, one player yelled to “switch the field!” Another stated (calmly but clearly), “Don’t yell, be positive.” Indeed, the Lady Indians completed a pass from one flank to the other and reset their offense.
“A lot of the upperclassmen have felt the sweetness of winning, and also some of the bitter,” said senior forward Madi Barber, who scored twice on Saturday. “We were third in state as freshmen, first as sophomores and second last year. This season has been frustrating and maybe we haven’t gone the right way about bringing the younger kids along.
“We’ve learned that positivity is better than criticism.”
Positivity in the face of a down year is a credit to the team. After all, you might have to go back to the Cheyenne East Class of 2003 to find a bunch with the success of Central’s Class of 2014. The Lady Thunderbirds of that era finished second, first, first and second at the state tournament.
Indeed, credit the Lady Indians for keeping their heads up in the face of a 5-6 season. Barber said they’ve had some misfortune, from some injuries to key players to goals scoring off deflections and odd bounces.
Saturday, they got some of those things going in their favor.
Barber’s first goal came in the first minute of the game, when she dribbled deep into the penalty area and knocked it in off the Gillette goalkeeper’s hands. Talk about setting the tone – both Barber and coach Scott Foster mentioned the importance of the early goal.
After the Camels equalized midway through the first half, the Lady Indians got another fortunate bounce. Gillette goalkeeper Taylor Wilde tried punting the ball out of her own penalty area but hit a teammate in the back. The loose ball landed at the feet of Central sophomore Sarah Glandt, who had but one thought.
“I just knew I had to shoot,” she said.
Glandt hammered a left-footed strike into the corner of the net to give the Lady Indians the lead for good in the 46th minute.
After scoring her third goal of the season, she said her game involves being wherever the team needs her to be – just like a good midfielder.
“I just go wherever the ball is,” the sophomore said. “If we need a goal, I push up to help the offense. If we’re outnumbered in the back, I go back to help protect the goal.”
Late in the game, Barber created her own fortunate bounce. With a tailwind and some time and space to work with, Barber unloaded from 40 yards away. The ball bounced near Wilde’s feet and took off, landing in the net in the 78th minute.
“Their starting goalie came up from the JV, and then they went with the other girl in the second half,” Barber said. “That was something we thought we could exploit.
“When I had the ball late in the game, (teammate Tristan Tyrrell) told me I had time so I thought I’d take a shot. I got it into the wind, put a little topspin on it and it went in.”
Good things definitely come to those who wait. Now the Lady Indians head into the final two games of the season with the momentum of a conference win at home. They’ll play at Laramie on Tuesday before hosting Cheyenne South on Thursday. Foster told the team in its postgame huddle that “this is the start of our winning season.”
“We’re set to play a play-in game against Gillette on their home field in the regional tournament (starting May 15),” he said. “We just needed this so badly because it’s been a frustrating season. This is big for us.”
“We really needed this,” Glandt said. “It’s great for us to win a conference game, and hopefully we can keep it going.”