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Star Valley’s soccer teams emerged on the state-wide radar last season in respective runs to the 3A title match. Both squads return enough players that expectations to make another strong push this season are no longer unwarranted.
• Braves Soccer Of all the close calls for state championships in the 2012-2013 school year, the Braves soccer team just might have had the closest. Having to settle for second in a tough loss to Buffalo, Star Valley has thrown their cleats into mix for contenders along with Lander and powerhouse Jackson who was forced to settle for third place last season.
In a previous nine seasons, the Braves have never had more returning goal scorers than they do this season. Dayne Abrams appears poised for a breakout season, as does Bryan Burton who had a record-setting stint at running back this past fall. Robby Smith is back for his junior season and Aaron Abrams and Noel Sosa also scored goals last season. Bronson Muir, fresh off an all-state nod in basketball will be at center/midfield. The team will sorely miss Travis Kinslow’s efforts in goal and a replacement will need to step up to the plate. Right now that is all-state wrestler Ammon Guild.
Defensively the Braves should be tough with Trace Haderlie, Eric Pantuso, Brennen Robinson, Tad Graham and Bobby Genini all bringing back extensive experience.
“I would put our 18 guys, athletically, up against anybody.” This was the quote from head coach Scott Berglund this week. In a nutshell, the boys soccer team is returning an impressive group of standout players from multiple sports.
“We are going to play hard, fast and physical,” Berglund added. “We have lots and lots of returning speed. Kids who are all-state in football and basketball. We have state champs in cross-country and all-state in wrestling. We have guys who are returning all conference in soccer which we’ve never had and they get along well with each other. I think it’s going to be a fun season.”
The Braves will start their schedule on the road this Friday in Cody and on Saturday against Powell.
“Powell has a pair of brothers who are both high quality kids who are fast and strong,” Berglund said. “It will be a good test.”
The Braves’ first home match will be on April 15 against Pinedale.
Lady Braves Soccer
For the first time in their history, the Lady Braves soccer team will have a new coach. Allison Hicks stepped down after last year’s run to the state title match and entering the fray is a coach who is perhaps as familiar with Star Valley soccer as anyone could be. Sandy Buckstaff is the current coach of Teton High School where he has compiled a record of 138-38-17, but with soccer being played in the fall in Wyoming, he will take over a program with a lot of potential and elevated expectations after making a very memorable run in last year’s state tournament. He was the primary official for the first several years of SVHS soccer in “the swamp” and has seen the program develop. Buckstaff will implement a three-forward formation to the program which differs from the four-forward philosophy of most Wyoming clubs. “My very best teams utilized that,” he said. It’s an attacking formation and I like to use high pressure and transition into attack when we gain possession.”
There’s no shortage of returning players this year but the big question will hover around senior Jessica Woodford who is attempting a comeback after a major knee injury last summer. Woodford holds the school records for career goals (49), goals in a season (30) and goals in a match (5, done 3 times). She won’t be alone. Although the team lost an all-timer in Abby Nicoll to graduation, they return junior Kenedey Brog who notched 18 goals of her own last season. Sadie Hokum had two and six other returning players had at least one. There are incoming freshmen who are already fighting for varsity spots as well. All-Stater Shelbey Brog returns and should be very difficult to handle for her opponent’s goal scorers. There is a question at keeper with the most likely culprit being sophomore Shayla Patterson protecting the pipes.
Cody and Powell should both return very salty defensive teams this season in the Northwest. The returning champion Jackson Lady Broncs return plenty of firepower and matches with perennial powers such as Buffalo and Lander should make for a difficult schedule.
The ladies will also start their season on the same road trip in Cody on Friday and in Powell on Saturday.
The ladies will play Rawlins in Evanston on April 5 and at the Green River Tournament on April 11 & 12. They will also open up their home season on April 15 vs Pinedale.