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Laramie boys break through for win at South

Apr. 2—CHEYENNE — Laramie boys soccer coach Andy Pannell had one question after his team's 3-0 victory over Cheyenne South on Tuesday night.

"Remind me, what's South's keeper's name," Pannell asked. "(Aiden Mitchell) played excellent. His positioning and overall play garnered a lot of respect from our team, so I wanted to make sure to mention him."

Mitchell's efforts helped keep South in the match on a night when Laramie held a 23-5 advantage in shots, including 11-1 in shots on goal.

"We started to combine a little better and get in behind their back line a little bit more," Pannell said. "Their back four was pretty organized and made life hard on us for big chunks of the night. They really made us work for it and have to fight.

"We had a lot of chances, but we really had to work for them."

Laramie drew first blood thanks to a Diego Villasenor goal in the 19th minute. A South defender tried to clear a ball by kicking it back over his head, but the ball shot straight into the air and hung up in the wind. Mitchell ran off his line to try to grab the ball, but Villasenor headed the ball toward the goal and it bounced into the open net.

Laramie (4-0-1 overall, 2-0-1 Class 4A East Conference) dodged a bullet in the 26th minute when South's Caden Hart ran onto a long ball behind the defense and was left one-on-one with goalkeeper Declan O'Connor. The ball eluded both Hart and O'Conner near the left upright, but it bounced back toward the goal mouth where senior Sam Kaiser kicked it out of harm's way just before it crossed the goal line.

In the 32nd, the Bison (1-4-0, 0-3-0) were awarded a free kick from 35 yards out. Alexis Bibian Chavarin tapped the ball over to Mario Rojas, who rifled a shot just over the crossbar.

"We're still building chemistry and building little pieces and parts," South coach Josh Eastman said. "I was rotating a lot of kids into the striker position and trying to mix it up. We're still learning to possess the ball and make better passes with a new blend of kids."

The Plainsmen peppered the goal with shots to close the first half, but Mitchell weathered the storm with a few diving saves.

They continued that into the second half and got a string of corner kicks midway through the frame. In the 60th, Sammy Heaney struck a shot from the top of the penalty area that ricocheted off Mitchell's chest and to the feet of Cooper Sweckard, whose shot went just wide of the left upright.

Senior Karson Busch gave Laramie some breathing room in the 63rd by carrying the ball into the attacking third before striking a low shot from 25 yards away inside the right upright for a 2-0 Laramie lead.

"Even though a 2-0 lead is still dangerous, it's better than a 1-0 lead, so it was nice to have that little bit of extra hump and get a little bit more energy on the field," Busch said. "We did a good job of moving the ball and not taking too many extra touches inside the box. We were letting it rip from outside, especially when we had the wind."

Senior Colby Bluemel netted Laramie's final goal of the night on a penalty kick in the 72nd.

"We changed a couple things with how we're defending that seemed to pay off," Eastman said. "We didn't allow as many through-balls.

"We still need to limit some shots and do a better job of stepping to the ball, but we're doing a better job of living in the passing lane and figuring out we can steal a ball off a pass instead of just off the dribble or off the feet. That's helping."

LARAMIE 3, SOUTH 0

Halftime: Laramie 1-0.

Goals: Laramie, Villasenor (unassisted), 19. Laramie, Busch (Heaney), 63. Laramie, Bluemel (penalty kick), 72.

Shots: Laramie 23, South 5. Shots on goal: Laramie 11, South 1. Saves: Laramie 1 (O'Conner 0, Polson 0, Team 1); South 8 (Mitchell).

Corner kicks: Laramie 14, South 2. Offsides: Laramie 1, South 0. Fouls: Laramie 6, South 5. Yellow cards: South 1 (Hart, 56).

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on X at @jjohnke.