May 16, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterIt's Riverton vs. Sheridan times two.
Both the Riverton High School boys and girls soccer teams will play their first-round matches against teams from Sheridan High School as play begins Thursday in the Wyoming high school state soccer tournament at the Big Horn Equestrian Center near Sheridan.
Coach Rick Bergstedt's girls team will play the third match of the day in the girls bracket.
Kelly Walsh (No. 1 seed from the West) plays Laramie (No. 4 East) and Cheyenne Central (2E) takes on Green River (3W) in the early games at 9:30 a.m.
Riverton's girls match along with the Casper Natrona (2W) vs. Gillette (3E) are set to kick off at 2:30 p.m.
For the boys, Riverton will battle the defending state champion Broncs at 4:30 p.m. Green River (1W) starts the tournament against Cheyenne East (4E) and Cheyenne Central (2E) meets Kelly Walsh (3W) at 11:30 a.m. In the other first round match, Rock Springs (2W) will challenge Laramie (3E) at 4:30 p.m.
The Lady Wolverines qualified for the state tournament last week as the fourth place team from the West in Casper with a 3-1 first-round in over Rock Springs and subsequent losses to Casper Natrona, 2-1, and Green River 5-0.
Sheridan, the top-ranked team in the final statewide high school poll, won the Class 4-A East regional soccer tournament, beating Gillette 2-1 and Cheyenne Central 1-0.
And, for most of the season, teams from the East have been given all of the respect in statewide rankings. No teams from the West were ranked in the top five in the final wyopreps.com poll, but Bergstedt, in his 26th and final season coaching for Riverton, thinks that teams from the West will be competitive and have a chance to slip through to second-round play Friday.
As for Riverton's first opponent, Sheridan, which defeated the Lady Wolverines 3-1 in an early season match, Bergstedt knows that his team will have to play well, especially defensively, to have a chance to win.
"Sheridan is big, fast and physical. They are good technically, and they will possess the ball against us a lot. We will have to be really, really organized defensively. We'll have to take advantage of our scoring opportunities when we get them," Bergstedt said.
Last year, Riverton fell to Laramie 1-0 in the first round of state tournament play but rebounded to beat Casper Natrona 3-1. Green River then beat the Lady Wolverines in the consolation championship match 3-1 to end Riverton's tournament run.
Coach Erly Cornejo's team created its path to state with a 1-0 regional win over Evanston and two losses to Rock Springs in overtime, 2-1, and Kelly Walsh 4-0.
The Wolverines will try to improve on their state third-place finish last season.
Sheridan won the Class 4-A East tournament this year on its home turf without giving up a goal, downing Cheyenne East and Cheyenne Central by identical 3-0 scores.
The Wolverines battled injuries throughout the late part of their season, but Cornejo believes all of his starters will be ready for Thursday's match.
"I think we are just going to have to fight with the injuries. The adrenaline will carry them through the first game," Cornejo said.
Cornejo expects that Sheridan will work its outside, counterattack strategy to try and strike against the Wolverine defense, but Riverton will counter with a different defensive set that has been shown this season according to Cornejo.
"We definitely will be outmatched for sure. I think we have some kids that are just as good as some of theirs, the problem is that they have eleven of them, and we just have a few. We'll take a different approached to the game. We want to make sure we don't get beat on a counter. That will give us the best chance to compete. We'll see how the ball rolls," Cornejo said.
Sheridan put Riverton out of championship contention last year with a thrilling 1-0 win over the Wolverines in a game played in a pouring rainstorm at the Big Horn Equestrian Complex.
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