SHERIDAN — The large group of seniors on Sheridan High School’s girls soccer team want the final year as Lady Broncs to be one worth remembering. Sheridan has had a rough go of it the last couple seasons, but something feels different for the 2018 squad.
“The first weekend [of games] felt like a breath of fresh air,” Sheridan’s Amanda Buckler said. “We got to play actual soccer, instead of kickball.”
A new coaching staff has given the team that breath of fresh air. Kevin Rizer returned to the sideline after a few years away from the game. Rizer coached boys soccer at Sheridan — and won the Broncs only state title in 2011 — and the Lady Broncs have already seen a noticeable difference in this year’s staff.
“They’re coaching confidence in us,” Buckler said. “Our coaches this year really have been amping us up and telling us, ‘You can do this.’ And so I think that’s something that’s been different, just give us that confidence boost.”
The feeling is mutual. Rizer has instilled confidence in his veterans, but the positive aura around the program is one the seniors have fostered. The 13 seniors have taken on leadership roles on and off the field, and that makes Rizer’s inaugural year that much easier and more enjoyable.
“It’s incredible. This senior class has been extraordinary,” Rizer said. “They’re the ones that came up with the community service idea. They are the ones that carry the balls up to the field. Everywhere else, they make the freshmen carry the balls. They’re being great leaders on this team, and it has been awesome.”
This year’s senior class hasn’t experienced much winning. The Lady Broncs have logged a combined 17 points within conference the last two seasons — recording just six points last season. Sheridan has resided near the bottom of the conference, but the first weekend gave the Lady Broncs confidence that this year will end differently.
And that starts with the play in goal.
The Lady Broncs logged two ties this past weekend, and much of that credit can go in Zoie Jones’ direction. Sheridan’s goalie — who Rizer is very high on and lauded for keeping the Lady Broncs in games at the Casper Jamboree — shut out Kelly Walsh and only allowed one goal against Natrona County.
Kailee Ingalls, Cassidy Schellinger and Marissa Coon join Jones on the back half of the field as defenders, but a slew of other capable players gives Rizer significant depth on the backline.
Katie Tomlinson spearheads the offensive attack as a striker. She’ll rotate with Courtney Wallach as the primary goal scorers, but Rizer anticipates numerous Lady Broncs logging goals throughout the season. Kaylee Abernatha and Maddy Estes will also likely find their way into the scoresheet quite a bit for shots on goal.
Thunder Basin appears as the early favorite in the conference, beginning the year at a perfect 4-0, outscoring its opponents 26-0 during the opening week. Campbell County and Cheyenne Central also boast early-season flawless records.
Sheridan, which currently holds a 0-1-2 record (two points), travels to battle Cheyenne South Friday night and Laramie Saturday afternoon to open conference play. Rizer remains happy with where his team stands after just one short week but understands there are many more things that need to get shored up come Friday and with the games that follow.
“I’d like to have a few more nonconference games since we just took over the program, but it is what it is,” he said. “We got to go, and we can’t waste time.”