By Craig Harper
For the Courier
You might call Evergreen’s season-opening 1-0 girls soccer triumph over Air Academy on March 6 poetic justice. But Kylee Petrik’s game-winning goal with 1 minute, 44 seconds remaining possessed all the artistry of a pulp-fiction writer.
“I just charged the goal and was kind of hacking at the ball,” Petrik said of a centering pass that got loose in front of Lady Kadets goalkeeper Sierra Daniger, who deflected Petrik’s shot but couldn’t keep it out of the net. “It wasn’t a clean goal, but it was a goal.”
By all accounts, Evergreen should not have needed Petrik’s late heroics to avenge last season’s 4-1 loss to Air Academy and prove that preseason rankings aren’t always credible. The Lady Kadets entered this season ranked No. 5 in 4A to Evergreen’s No. 11, but the Lady Cougars dominated play at Evergreen High School in every aspect except the most important one: scoring goals.
“It was a great finish,” said Evergreen coach Peter Jeans. “It was building all game. We would’ve been disappointed not to get that goal. It was a great night for the high school and for the community. We played terrific. The school was here in support, and because of that we just kept playing better and better. I never feel like a goal is inevitable, but I felt like that was deserved.”
Evergreen, which only lost one senior from last year’s club that reached the second round of the 4A state tournament as a No. 14 seed, had 10 shots on goal to Air Academy’s three and another nine that didn’t miss the target by much, most of those in the second half. Nicole Adreon, Zoe Peterson, Jahna Pusedu and freshman Sofia Weiner had four shots apiece.
A precursor of what lay ahead came early when Jenny Slack failed to convert a penalty kick in the game’s first few minutes. Time after time, the Lady Cougars fired bullets at Daniger, only to have the ball sail high or wide. And as the second half progressed, Evergreen’s frustration grew with each miss.
“We need to work on finishing because we missed so many shots,” Petrik said. “But we’ll get there.”
“That’s how we want to play, and we manufacture a lot of chances,” Jeans said. “Obviously what we’ll work on is finishing more of them. (Missing shots is) maybe a little adrenalin; some players, it’s the first game. But eventually we got the one they needed and in soccer 1-zero wins games.”
Sarah Temple, Evergreen’s senior goalkeeper, only had to make three saves, but she did come up with a couple of big ones on Air Academy’s rare scoring opportunities. Temple shared time in the net with Natalie Ulfig last year. But Ulfig, now a junior, is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Jeans acknowledged that Air Academy didn’t look like the same team that beat Evergreen with three goals in the final 10 minutes early last season, then reached the 4A quarterfinals. “It’s a little different team for them. But, you know, it’s one of the top programs in the state every year. So it’s a bit of a measuring stick for us, and we did well. And we looked better than we did a year ago, for sure. So it’s really encouraging.”