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State ought to have an all-star game for soccer, too

Jun 11, 2013 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

During the last few weeks, we've watched Wyoming high school senior gridders compete against each other in the North vs. South annual Shrine football game in Casper, and on the hardwood, where Wyoming all-star teams, both boys and girls, have taken on the best from South Dakota and Montana with Sheridan and Gillette playing the Wyoming host to those events.

More high school all-star games are on tap for basketball and volleyball later this summer.

But noticeably absent from the lineup of all-star events are games for boys and girls soccer even though there seems to be support for such an event statewide.

Soccer is the only team sport that does not have its own all-star showcase even though, according to Lander soccer coach Dean Schaff, such a game existed in the 1990s

Today's problem, it seems, is that no school is ready to take the lead and establish a soccer classic showcasing Wyoming's best senior soccer players.

"I think it would be great. It seems like the idea has always been tossed around. It seems like we're getting closer and closer to having it, but we're not getting any results," Riverton head boys soccer coach Erly Cornejo said.

From a player perspective, Cornejo adds, it would be great -- not only for college prep, but for kids to meet and play with other kids around the state whom they've competed against during their careers.

There are issues that would need to be addressed, such as when the game could be played, whether it should be a North vs. South Wyoming event, or whether is could be a Wyoming vs. another state challenge.

Most other states play their high school soccer in the fall, but Wyoming plays its soccer in the spring (although a group from Laramie continues to try and change that).

There also are club soccer events to schedule around. Fewer schools play high school soccer than other team sports in Wyoming, so the pool of senior-eligible all-stars is smaller. Schaff wonders whether, with just 24 schools, a true all-star team could be put together.

According to Schaff, other all-star events like the all-star weekend hosted by the Wyoming Coaches Association, sometimes struggle with attracting players.

But hosting the event with top-fight coaches and community enthusiasm could be a marquee opportunity for a school, and Riverton's Wolverine Field is now considered one of the top soccer venues in Wyoming with its ultra-wide pitch, great lights, stadium seating, and new restroom and concession area -- all in a convenient, central location in the state.

Lander's enthusiasm for soccer also is well established.

There is lots of support, and, according to Schaff, it's not a dead subject. Someone needs to "take charge and make it a priority," Schaff said.

With Sheridan adding community college soccer next year, and more Wyoming soccer players on state community college rosters than either basketball or volleyball, let's hope an annual Wyoming high school all-star event happens soon.

Soccer players, just like their football and volleyball schoolmates, deserve the recognition.

And why not make it happen here?

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In scanning the Wyoming High School Activities Association list of schools that had no coaches or players ejected during the 2012-13 school year, the Class 4-A section is the most intriguing -- because none of the big schools, including Riverton, made the list.

The county schools deserving of praise for their good conduct this year are Dubois, Shoshoni, Wind River and Wyoming Indian High School.

Nice work, small schools. Let's hope Riverton, Lander and St. Stephen's make that list next year.

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After publication last week, the RHS activities office added Coley Nicholls to the list of Wolverines who are extending their athletic careers in college. Nicholls will rodeo at Casper College beginning this fall. So, there aren't 10 Wolverines playing on in college -- this group of Wolverines, "goes to 11," to quote the famous line from the movie "This is Spinal Tap."

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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