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Laramie boys, East draw in regular-season finale

May 4—LARAMIE — With rain in the forecast, the Laramie High boys soccer team hosted its senior night against Cheyenne East indoors Friday night.

A tale of two halves resulted in a 2-2 tie inside the University of Wyoming's Indoor Practice Facility. Both teams felt good about where they sit heading into the Class 4A East regional tournament next weekend.

Laramie drew first blood in the 17th minute after a mistake by East. A handball inside the box resulted in a Plainsmen penalty kick.

Laramie coach Andy Pannell elected to have senior Karson Busch take the kick. Busch went left, beating Thunderbirds senior goalkeeper Jaxon Miller, who stayed in the middle.

"We came out jittery," Pannell said. "We were too quick to play the ball away and weren't connecting enough. We were a little skittish."

After the score, East's offense turned the pressure up a notch and fired a series of shots off. Fortunately for Laramie, senior goalkeeper Declan O'Connor dove to save a shot and bounced back to his feet, stopping the rebound.

The Thunderbirds' pressure paid off a minute later, with freshman Bridger Woods knocking a pass from senior Liam Taylor by O'Connor for his first career goal. Shortly after, East broke the 1-1 tie.

"We did a lot of good things tonight," East coach Alex Stratton said. "On our first goal, we had a lot of connecting passes and volume. In the second half, we got away from possessing and got to direct (with the ball)."

Added Woods: "It felt pretty sweet. (Liam Taylor) found me wide open next to him. He could have had it himself, but he gave it to me."

Laramie threatened on a free kick from 12 yards out later in the half, but the Thunderbirds defense booted the ball out of danger before Miller needed to make a save.

"We did what we wanted to do, which is come out and play hard," Woods said. "We got disconnected in the second half and lost control."

East's momentum carried into the second half, but was quickly diminished by a key save from O'Connor. He was left in a one-on-one scenario with Thunderbirds senior Brenden Bohlmann, making a stop in which the coach called the key play of the game.

"(O'Connor) made a huge save for us where the score could've easily been 3-1," Pannell said. "He basically made a game-saving play with his feet."

Laramie looked like a different team after O'Connor's heroics. The Plainsmen attempted three shots on net over the next five minutes, but Miller stopped all three.

"(Miller) played really well," Stratton said. "I've been asking him to demand a presence and be vocal, and I thought that happened today."

Shortly after, East's physicality resulted in a free-kick opportunity for Busch. The ball was headed out of bounds by the Thunderbirds for a corner kick. Senior Catcher Pannell's corner kick was booted back at him and, after gaining body position over East, he crossed a pass toward the net. The ball found the foot of senior Lucas Dillion, who evened the score 2-2.

"(Lucas's) goal was brilliant," Pannell said. "We started to connect (in the second half), which created more chances."

Nine of the final 10 minutes of the second half were spent within 20 yards of the Thunderbirds' net, but Miller and his back line never allowed the Plainsmen to snap the tie. Stratton felt like Laramie out-threatened East in the second half.

"They got balls to their forwards and got balls in behind," Stratton said. "We were discombobulated. People weren't where they should've been marking."

Both East (7-4-3 overall, 5-4-3 4A East Conference) and Laramie (6-4-4, 4-4-4) will return to action for the East regional tournament starting Thursday in Cheyenne.

"We're still trying to figure out our identity after the Sammy Heaney injury," Pannell said. "That has changed our team quite a bit. The next one is our biggest game of the season, and it'll probably be against (East) again.

"It'll be a super tight game versus a competitive group."

EAST 2, LARAMIE 2

Halftime: East 2-1.

Goals: Laramie, Busch (penalty kick) 17, East, Woods (Taylor) 29, East, Ramirez Munoz (unassisted) 34, Laramie, Dillion (Pannell), 64.

Shots: Laramie 13, East 15. Shots on goal: Laramie 7, East 9. Saves: Laramie 9 (O'Connor), East 6 (Miller).

Corner kicks: Laramie 3, East, 3. Offsides: Laramie 0, East 0. Fouls: Laramie 7, East 9.

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