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May 21—CHEYENNE — After an early goal from Rock Springs junior Brecken Hunsaker in a quarterfinal matchup of the Class 4A state tournament, the Cheyenne East girls didn’t flinch at the Lady Tigers’ ability to move the ball downfield.

The fourth-seeded Lady Thunderbirds battled, but fell to top-seeded Rock Springs 2-0 Thursday morning at Riske Field.

“I’m proud of the kids. They came out and played with fire,” East coach Rebecca Valdez said. “They were resilient, and you can’t be mad when they play good.”

Rock Springs started the contest by peppering the net seemingly more often than not. It had three shots in the first three minutes of play. The first score of the contest came after Rock Springs’ Karli Nelson fired a shot, where Hunsaker rebounded the save and scored for a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.

East goalie Kiara Kershaw was a wall in the net following that sequence, finishing with 18 saves, including some help from her back line.

“I was just confident — confident in my ability,” Kershaw said. “I made sure to keep my team in it. I wanted to be able to give my team that chance to come back and win it, and the only way I could do that was playing with confidence and doing everything I possibly can to keep the ball out of the net.”

The T-Birds had some decent looks midway through the first half. Freshman Haley Pierson sent a shot just right of the net, and Faith Burdett and Cheyenne Alvarado passed the ball back and forth to each other before Burdett sent a shot that Rock Springs goalkeeper Alex Moeller made a play on.

“We were finding as many looks as we could,” East freshman Jordan Griess said. “We had the right idea the whole game, we played really well, we just couldn’t get there.”

Other than those two opportunities, the T-Birds just couldn’t seem to connect with their downfield looks, barely missing what would have been breakaway chances.

“We just couldn’t click,” Valdez said. “When we needed to play to feet, we played to space, and when we needed to play to space, we played to feet. But that’s OK. I thought we had some good attacks, and we had our chances.”

Kershaw and the East defense continued to buckle down in the second half. In the 60th minute, Nelson sent a shot that looked like it was going to find the back of the net, but instead bounced off the top left post.

That was the final missed chance for the Tigers. Their second goal came on a Hunsaker shot that bounced off Kershaw’s outstretched hand, then off the post and into the net, ultimately putting the contest out of reach.

“(Rock Springs) is a tough team. We battled all the way through, but just didn’t have quite enough luck,” Kershaw said. “It didn’t come out the way we wanted to, but we played amazing against this team.”

East plays Cheyenne Central at 9 a.m. today at Riske Field in the consolation semifinals.


Halftime: 1-0

Goals: Rock Springs, Hunsaker, 8. Rock Springs, Hunsaker, 73.

Shots: RS 21, CE: 5. Shots on goal: RS 20, CE 2. Saves: RS 2 (Moeller), CE 18 (Kershaw).

Corner kicks: RS 6, CE 0. Fouls: RS 5, CE 5.

Robert Munoz is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @rmunoz307.