By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
BIG SKY—On a sunny homecoming afternoon at Lone Peak High School, the Park High School Rangers of Livingston engaged the Big Horns in an even-keeled battle.
The Rangers won the game 1-0, scoring in the first half on a 45-yard free kick goal by Jessica Worthen. The Big Horns were unable to answer, despite many close chances on net by junior Astrid McGuire, freshman Cate Leydig, and freshman Harper Morris. Keeper Josie Wilcynski kept the game close with a few strong saves. Lone Peak will look to finish the season with a win in a rematch against Lockwood on Saturday.
“I don’t really know what happened,” said Morris, on her missed opportunities in the offensive zone. “I usually am a good shooter but today was just a little off. Everyone has those off-days. We’re all human, you know.”
Seven minutes into the game, Morris crossed the ball to Cate Leydig who elevated her shot just above a mostly open goal. Late in the second half, Leydig sent a cross directly in front of the goal but could not connect with the two attackers in position to score. Throughout the game, the Big Horns struggled to execute on one-touch opportunities inside the box.
The Big Horns had many other close opportunities to score.
Twenty-three minutes into the game, senior Avery Dickerson nearly scored on a 40-yard free kick, but the Park keeper smothered the bouncing shot in the bottom right corner. Five minutes later, McGuire turned and fired from outside the box and nearly found the top right corner, instead missing just wide. Two minutes after that near-miss, Morris received a through-ball from the defense and missed just wide right from the edge of the box.
The return of freshman defensive midfielder Maddie Wilcynski made a strong impact for the Big Horns, as she won physical battles for the ball and covered the entire midfield in transition with her endurance and range. She also made a key defensive stop in the second half to clear a breakaway.
“You gotta try. You gotta try your hardest ‘til the very end,” Wilcynski said. “That’s something I believe in. I think if you don’t hustle, you don’t need to be out there. I love to hustle, that’s one of my favorite things about soccer, to move, and not be afraid to move. And to have contact with another player.”
Wilcynski missed the previous three games due to a concussion, and said it felt a lot better to be on the field with the team.
In the second half, the Big Horns applied more pressure. The Rangers played physical, effective defense and their tight coverage limited open shots for the Big Horns. The wind also picked up, mostly blowing against the Big Horns but disrupting the flight path of every punt.
“[The wind] was stronger than I thought it was going to be,” Morris said. “On punts, the ball didn’t go very far. It didn’t hurt us, but it definitely made an impact.”
Toward the end of the game, the Big Horns nearly tied the score.
The Rangers’ keeper made a diving save on a shot by senior Myla Hoover. With eleven minutes remaining in the game, Morris was wide open on a breakaway but called offsides. In the final minutes, Leydig’s left-footed shot didn’t bend far enough and hit the net outside of the top left corner.
As time expired, the Big Horns had to reconcile a strong effort with another difficult outcome.
Morris and Wilcynski both said they have a lot of confidence looking forward to Saturday’s matchup at Lockwood.