JACKSON — The Rock Springs High School girls soccer team suffered its first defeat of the season on Friday after losing to Thunder Basin High School 3-2 in penalty kicks during the semifinals of the state tournament.
After 80 minutes of intense soccer, the match was forced to go into overtime with the score locked at 1-1. The Bolts took a one-goal lead, but just a few minutes later the Tigers evened things up. Extra time wasn’t enough to determine a winner, so the game went into penalty kicks. RSHS did its best, but Thunder Basin won after outscoring the Tigers 4-2 in the shootout.
Even though Rock Springs didn’t get the result it was hoping for, no one can take any credit away from the team. Thunder Basin High School was by far the best team these girls have seen all season long, and the Tigers never once stopped playing their hearts out.
Neither team found the back of the net in the first half, but Rock Springs got off to a strong start in the second. Less than three minutes in, Olivia Politi crossed the ball into the box, giving Emily Taucher a great chance to score. Taucher flicked the ball with her head, but she deflected it wide of the post.
Taucher’s close scoring opportunity gave the Tigers even more energy to play off. Just over five minutes later, Alyssa Bedard scored the game’s first goal on free kick taken just outside Thunder Basin’s 18-yard box. Bedard shot the ball in the lower-left corner, out of the reach of the goalkeeper.
Midway through the second half, Thunder Basin kicked in the equalizer after dribbling through the Rock Springs defense and burying the ball past goalkeeper Alex Moeller. Throughout the entire game, Moeller played outstanding between the pipes. Thunder Basin put Rock Springs in many stressful situations, but Moeller did a great job at bailing them out of trouble.
In the final 20 minutes, Thunder Basin and Rock Springs pieced together a few more opportunities, but the game went into overtime knotted 1-1.
Friday’s overtime was the first time all season that the Tigers were forced into extra time. Even though RSHS hadn’t been in this position before, the team never lost a step. With 10 minutes of extra time in the first period, neither team could get much going, but the Tigers came close with 50 seconds remaining. Politi delivered a corner kick to Brecken Hunsaker, but the freshman sent the ball over the crossbar and out of play.
Thunder Basin knew Rock Springs had the majority of the momentum, so the Bolts came out firing on all cylinders for the second overtime period. Less than one minute in, Thunder Basin’s offense found a way through the back line and fired another shot past Moeller.
Even though the Tigers were now trailing for only the second time all year, they remained calm. Less than two minutes later, Bedard drew a foul inside the box, giving the Tigers a penalty kick and an opportunity to tie things up. Stepping in to take the kick for Rock Springs was Liliana Hernandez. The senior was not only determined to score, but she never let the moment become to big. Hernandez fired her shot perfectly into the corner and tied the game at 2-2.
Over the next few minutes, Thunder Basin was back knocking at the door. Within five minutes, the Bolts pieced together two-straight scoring opportunities, but Moeller slammed the door shut with back to back saves. In the final two minutes, the Bolts gave Rock Springs one more scare, this time on a corner kick. After a perfectly placed kick, the ball was deflected over the crossbar. This would be the final scoring chance from either side, sending the game into penalty kicks.
Shooting first for the Tigers was Taucher. She tied up the scoring after the Bolts opened the shootout with a goal of their own. Shooting second for Rock Springs was Kia Comstock. The senior placed the ball perfectly into the corner of the net, tying things up at two goals apiece.
Moeller then came up huge again for the Tigers. Not only did she block Thunder Basin’s third attempt, but she gave Rock Springs a chance to go up in the shootout. Kicking third for RSHS was Lauren Profaizer. The sophomore fired a strong shot on net, but the Bolts goalkeeper guessed the correct corner and made a big save. Thunder Basin then outscored Rock Springs 2-0 and closed out the match with a 3-2 victory.
“It hurts right now, but we will get over it,” RSHS head coach Stephen Pyer said. “The girls played their hearts out today and have no reason to hang their heads. It’s going to sting for awhile, but we still have work to do.”
Up next, Rock Springs will face Kelly Walsh High School in the third-place game at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 18. The Trojans are the No. 2-ranked team behind Rock Springs coming out of the West. The Tigers have gone 3-0 against their conference rival, but Pyer has no doubt Saturday will be another fight.
“At this point of the season they know us well, and we know them well,” Pyer said. “We came up short on our ultimate goal, but we still want to go out and finish the year with another strong statement. By now teams should realize that Rock Springs soccer is on the rise and that we should be taken very seriously.”