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LHS girls soccer wins regional championship, earns top seed at state

May 12—CHEYENNE — The Laramie girls soccer team will represent the East Conference as the No. 1-seed at next week's Class 4A state tournament in Rock Springs.

The Plainsmen dictated play from start to finish against Thunder Basin leading to a 2-0 win Saturday at Okie Blanchard Stadium. With the win, Laramie is now both regional and conference champions.

"Gosh, this win was everything," Laramie coach Kim Whisenant said. "For us to be conference and regional champs is so awesome. As a first-year head coach with this group, I'm so proud of their resilience in the fight to win.

"We talked about starting fast from the first whistle and they did that the last few days."

For much of the first half, the Plainsmen seemed to be on the verge of scoring. Laramie outshot the Bolts' 12-1 over that span with half of those shots being on net. As a result, Thunder Basin senior goalkeeper Morgan Shirley recorded five saves in the first half.

"We know they're a good squad," sophomore Devani Romero said. "We came out today ready to win and get down to business from the first minute. We worked as a team and knew that we could win today."

Laramie came close to scoring in the 9th minute after a a pass from freshman Shaylee Lucero was headed by sophomore Ava Wallhead and banged the bottom of the crossbar. The Bolts' were able to corral the ball after the deflection and get it out of danger.

In the 17th, Romero placed a corner kick from senior Chloe Whisenant into the net, but the goal was reversed due to an offside call on Laramie. Though Thunder Basin weathered the storm, they generated very few scoring chances of their own.

"We've struggled to start games throughout the season, Romero said. "Today, we were powerful and put them on their heels."

The Bolts' only shot attempt of the half went wide right and was never close to being on target. Plainsmen senior goalkeeper McKenna Barham never got a save opportunity in the frame.

"Confidence isn't an issue for us anymore," Whisenant said. "I always tell this team 'Let's constrain ourselves' because it doesn't matter what's happened in the past."

Added Romero: "(Thunder Basins's) Attie Westbrook is an amazing player. Our defense did a phenomenal job on her today and never let her get going."

In the second half, cracks in the Bolts' foundation began to spread. Ten minutes into the frame, a free kick from Lucero hit the crossbar nearly breaking the seal.

Shortly after, Thunder Basin had their only real scoring threat of the game after a free kick from senior Sydnee Streitz bounced perfectly in the box causing a high bounce on the ball.

Laramie senior goalkeeper McKenna Barham gave a full extension leap to punch the ball over the net. On the Plainsmen's next possession, Lucero attempted the team's eighth corner kick of the game and hit the crossbar for the second time.

Later in the frame, the Bolts' defense finally broke. Wallhead placed a pass perfectly between two defenders finding senior Chloe Whisenant who converted the chance for the game's first point.

"(Ava) made a great run and we needed to breakthrough," Chloe Whisenant said. "We needed the momentum because we weren't capitalizing on our first half opportunities."

Laramie continued crashing the box with all the momentum behind them and never allowed Thunder Basin to posses the ball for longer than a few seconds. In the 65th, sophomore Devani Romero was assisted by classmate Morgan Hansen for the team's second goal of the game.

With time ticking, the Bolts were forced to take chances. Unfortunately for Thunder Basin, Laramie had an answer for everything.

"We did a lot of scouting," Kim Whisenant said. "We knew exactly who their main people were and how to manage it. Our kids listened to the game plan and followed through."

The Bolts' played hard until the final whistle bringing Shirley out of the net on the final possession for a numbers advantage. However, they booted the ball out of bounds wide of the net giving Laramie possession in the final 10 seconds.

Laramie plays the West Conference's No. 4 seed Natrona County at 2 p.m. Thursday at Rock Springs High.

"We connect so well as a team and that showed," Chloe Whisenant said. "We had a few one-touch passes and we got a lot of pressure in certain situations. We've learned from each others habits and tendencies."

Added Romero: "If we can go out and put (a goal) right on them, we will be much more successful and that much more confident."

LARAMIE 2, THUNDER BASIN 0

Halftime: 0-0.

Goals: Laramie, Whisenant (A. Wallhead) 57, Laramie, Romero (Hansen) 65.

Shots: Laramie 21, Thunder Basin 2. Shots on goal: Laramie 13, Thunder Basin 1. Saves: Laramie 1 (Barham) Thunder Basin 10 (Shirley).

Corner kicks: Laramie 10, Thunder Basin 0. Offsides: Laramie 1, Thunder Basin 0. Fouls: Laramie 5, Thunder Basin 10.

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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.