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Shutout of Natrona highlights SVHS soccer trip to Casper

After a break from school the SVHS soccer teams were back in action this past weekend as they made the trip to the Oil City to face off against Kelly Walsh and Natrona County High Schools.

@ Kelly Walsh
The Lady Braves have been shown no mercy so far in their 2019 foray into Wyoming’s largest classification as they have played the two teams who will perhaps be the top squads in the Western Conference. Star Valley lost a 7-0 decision to the Lady Trojans on Friday

“I saw the games as a step forward,” said head coach Sandy Buckstaff. “Kelly Walsh is going to battle Rock Springs for first seed in the Western Conference, that much is clear at this point.  We played pretty well against them in the first half with the score being 2-0 at halftime.  And then the wheels came off. However, I felt, as did the players, that we performed better than we had against Rock Springs.  We did not have nearly as many self-inflicted wounds.  We simply got beat by a much superior team.”

The Braves are a team that are still a bit of an unknown quantity in the 4A Class and they introduced themselves a bit more over the weekend. Against the Trojans the team had a chance to win against a very good team on their own grass.

“It’s always hard to travel six hours and play a competitive game, however the team didn’t know that,” said head coach Shane Hokum. “They went out and played a great team and matched them in controlling the ball, passing, and taking shots.”

According to the SVHS managers the Braves outshot the Trojans 12-8 and had five corner kicks compared to two for the home team.

“[That] tells me that we were pressuring on their end of the field,” Hokum said. “I was proud of our defense and how well they clicked together as a defensive squad.  They fought hard against a talented Kelly Walsh team and were unfortunate to get a hand ball called on us to give Kelly Walsh their second goal.  Alek is one of the best keepers I’ve seen with penalty kicks and once again, knew where the ball was going and blocked it originally, however the ball took a lucky spin and bounce to make it barely across the line. It was a disappointment to lose, however the team is seeing themselves as competitors at the 4A level and matching our opponents in stats and control.”

@ Natrona County

The Lady Braves forged a 1-1 tie with the Fillies, their best showing against a 4A team so far this season.

“With respect to the game against Natrona County, I believe we figured out our identity in the game against them on Saturday morning,” Buckstaff said. “We tried a new formation and a new deployment of personnel within that formation that the players seemed to be comfortable with and like.”

Cloe Thomson scored in the 54th minute to put the Lady Braves up on a shot from 12 yards in front of the goal. She was assisted by Mia Hutchinson. Unfortunately, the team conceded the equalizer in the 79th minute and after overtime the two squads settled for the tie.

Facing off against the defending 4A champs in the boys match, the Braves battled through the odds and hung a 3-0 loss on the Mustangs on their home field.

“Natrona was a different game than Kelly Walsh,” Hokum said. “It was a very physical game and we saw a number of fouls being called to settle the game down against both teams. We controlled the ball and passed very well for most of the game.”

According to Hokum, one of those fouls led to a few opportunities and Star Valley’s first goal came from Gerson Lozano who struck a perfect ball from 35 yards out to give the Braves the lead. Lozano scored again after dribbling through Natrona defenders and burying a shot in the lower left corner of the goal.

The final goal came from Chase Merrell who was able to finish past the Mustang keeper. The Braves outshot the home squad 16-4 for the game.

“The defense once again played great together and worked well with building the ball out of the backfield,” Hokum added. “I’m proud of Star Valley Braves for keeping their composure and playing both physical but clean soccer.  It’s something we continually teach the team and demand respect for opponents.  It was a difficult game to accomplish this as we played a frustrated Natrona team.  I’m happy that we are finding the net with a few different players and others with plenty of attempts.”

SVHS soccer will be in Jackson on Thursday April 11, when they face off against the Lady Broncs and Broncs at 3 and 5 p.m. respectively.