aedmonds1: Edmonds Laramie girls will remain a state title contender

May 22—The Laramie High girls soccer team is in the midst of a youth takeover.

The Plainsmen will graduate six seniors from this year's squad that finished third at last weekend's Class 4A state tournament in Rock Springs. The team is losing a starter at goalie, defense, midfield and forward.

Junior Bailey Setright is the team's only rising senior, while the bulk of Laramie's depth is in the class of 2026. The Plainsmen scored 11 goals through three games at the state tournament, with nine coming from underclassmen.

Sophomore Devani Romero paced the team with four goals over the weekend, including a hat trick against Riverton in the third-place game Saturday. Classmates Ava and Chloe Wallhead scored two each, while freshman Izzi McIntyre scored in the team's 7-0 blowout win against Natrona County on Thursday.

McIntyre's goal was also assisted by freshman Sia Taufa. Freshman Shaylee Lucero assisted Ava Wallhead on a goal, and booted a corner kick off the shoulder of a Fillies defender and into the net for an own goal against Natrona County.

"(That underclassmen group) is very dynamic," Laramie coach Kim Whisenant said. "Losing our seniors, I'll have to see where the holes are that we'll need to fill. Any given season, a player could be asked to play a totally different role.

"(I'll decide) based off of the personnel we get from the rising eighth grade group. This is a great team, and I was impressed with what we were able to do in year one. Next spring, we'll compare those kids and figure out another winning combination."

Losing six seniors will bring questions about leadership for next year's group. Three-time all-state senior goalkeeper McKenna Barham will be a big loss in that department, as she was a talkative leader for the Plainsmen.

"(Barham) was really comfortable using her voice," Whisenant said. "She did a lot on and off the field. We're looking to see who can fill those shoes next year."

Romero stood out toward the end of the year as someone who had grown comfortable in using her voice. Lucero and sophomore Morgan Hansen also grew more comfortable in themselves as players, becoming more vocal as a result.

"(Romero) did a fantastic job growing herself and with me as a coach," Whisenant said. "We've really developed our relationship together. (Lucero) has a really strong voice.

"(Hansen) had a good season for us. Heading into her junior year, we will look for her leadership and guidance as an older player."

The Plainsmen are losing the most experienced member of their backline in senior Sienna Osborne. In addition to Setright, sophomore Madelyn Martin is a key piece to the defense's future.

Outside of those two, the positions on Laramie's backline are up for grabs. Taufa got her feet wet on the defensive end later in the season, but her skillset is versatile enough that she can be penciled into multiple spots.

"It's amazing what these kids can do when you give them an exact plan, lay it out and show them exactly what it's supposed to look like," Whisenant said. "They really bought into the culture and system that we try to play.

"Their growth as individuals in one short season is impressive. They have become really confident in themselves."

After the Plainsmen's 4-1 win over Riverton on Saturday, Barham said this year's team was the most upbeat she'd seen since joining the program. That culture change stemmed from Whisenant's constructive nature, she added.

The players have a mutual understanding that Whisenant — on occasion — has to yell when the play doesn't match the expectation. In response, the team strived to uplift each other and give each other positive constructive criticism.

"I like to think of myself as a builder," Whisenant said. "I like to give these young women a lot of positive stuff to build off of. They're still trying to figure out themselves as young women.

"They aren't trying to mess up, so if I can help on that side of things mentally and physically, things go a little bit better. Our kids did a good job of having no drama."

In the midfield, Laramie will be without senior captain Chloe Whisenant. McIntyre is an appealing option to fill that role, as she generated a consistent presence down the stretch.

McIntyre was moved around in an attempt to gain a better understanding of her fit on the team. Her effort and physicality helped her settle into the midfield down the stretch.

"(McIntyre) played really strong and battled," Kim Whisenant said. "She was really tough in the middle of the field. Depending on what we look like in the spring, she could end up somewhere else."

Throughout the season, senior Kaylee Kern played multiple positions at a high level. The closest skillset to Kern's returning next year likely belongs to Taufa.

Taufa saw time all over the field after returning from a lower body injury to start the year. By the time the state tournament came around, she carved out consistent playing time.

"You try to take the strengths of some kids and bounce them off the weakness of others," Kim Whisenant said. "(Taufa) played up top, in the back and out wide. We'll have to see how she looks with the rest of the group in the spring.

"Her versatility helps a lot, and she's willing to jump in wherever needed."

Kim Whisenant has done a solid job establishing a mutual understanding with her team on why playing time is dispersed the way it is. With physicality and speed differing between different opponents, Laramie began buying into a more selfless approach.

"I have to put a productive group on the field," Kim Whisenant said. "(The team) knows what it takes, and that it may not always look how they want. As the coach, I've got to create mismatches and expose the other team."

The coach is hoping all of her returning players start building toward a state title run this offseason. Whisenant also coaches the under-19 club team in Laramie.

"You can't take a full year off and expect to be back in the same place next spring," Whisenant said. "I'm totally cool with being a multi-sport athlete. Play a high school sport in the fall, along with fall soccer.

"You just can't take a year off and expect to come back around tryouts. Some will go and play for different teams. When we get back together, we need to be sure we're back playing possession-style (soccer) and connecting as individuals. We need to have a rhythm right away."

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Austin Edmonds covers Laramie High, University of Wyoming and community athletics for WyoSports. He can be reached at Follow him on X at @_austinedmonds.