Lady Devils fall to Star Valley 4-3 on Senior Night

Lady Devil senior Brinkley Francom fires a shot on goal during Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to Star Valley at Kay Fackrell Stadium. Francom scored a goal in the second half to tie the game at 2-2. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Dover, Francom, Bardsley score goals in home finale

On an afternoon where they honored their seniors for their hard work and commitment to the program over the years, the Evanston High School girls’ soccer team turned in its finest performance of the season Wednesday, controlling the action against visiting Star Valley for most of the match, before falling 4-3 at Kay Fackrell Stadium.

“I thought the girls played great,” said EHS head coach Karalyn Barton. “I felt like we had the ball on our half more, it was more our game. We had a lapse on one of their goals, and that ended up being the difference. But I thought we played really well, and the girls never gave up – they played so hard.”

Katie Dandridge got the scoring started for the Lady Braves (3-9-1), finding the back of the net in the 14th minute to make it 1-0. Just four minutes later, however, Lady Devil Bella Dover scored her first career goal on a corner kick from Kinnley Hintze to bring the game back to even at 1-1.

“Bella’s goal was so exciting – that’s her first varsity goal,” Barton said. “I was so happy for Bella, she played Kinnley’s corner kick perfectly. It was an exciting play.”

Star Valley’s Kylie Moyer scored later on in the first half, and the Lady Braves would take a 2-1 lead into the break. The Lady Devils (0-10-1) drew first blood in the second half, as senior Brinkley Francom scored on a beautiful header, off an assist by Jocelyn Capener. Dover also played a part in the set-up of the scoring play.

“The whole build-up to Brinkley’s goal started with Bella Dover,” Barton explained. “She won the ball and got it out to Jocelyn [Capener] who took it in. She got hit by the keeper and got a shot off, bounced up off the goalie, and Brinkley headed it in. That was so exciting, because Brinks is a senior, and she got a goal. Jocelyn is little, and to have her go in so fierce to create that play, that was amazing.”

Just when Evanston seemed to have momentum on their side, the Lady Braves’ Willow Aullman scored back-to-back goals to give the visitors a 4-2 lead. With three minutes to play, Lady Devil Jayce Bardsley battled her way through a pair of defenders and the Star Valley keeper to make it 4-3.

“That was another exciting goal, because Jayce works her can off,” Barton said. “She works so hard – she never gives up, she’s so tenacious. That’s what makes her dangerous; most people don’t keep fighting for the ball the way she does.”

Time ran out on the Lady Devils after that, and Star Valley was able to return home with a hard-fought 4-3 win. That said, Barton said the match was a marked improvement from the last time the two teams met late last month.

“We’ve had seven practices on a field now, and we’ve been able to work on offense – shooting, connecting passes in the middle, everything we weren’t able to do when we were stuck inside a gym,” Barton said. “Getting the feel for playing on an actual field, how the ball moves, the parameters of a field – not to mention our fitness is getting better. All those things are combining. It’s too bad it couldn’t have happened sooner, but it is what it is this season.”

The Lady Devils took time following the match to recognize their seniors – Brinkley Francom, Jaeli Higdon, Kyrie Worthing and Calleigh Bell.

“These seniors are a special group, because they were the freshmen that came out during the COVID year, when all the spring sports were canceled,” Barton said. “We were keeping in touch with them online, we gave them challenges, we gave them workouts – they completed enough of the stuff that they all lettered their freshman year. It wasn’t easy – I tried to make it the equivalent of having real soccer practice, because I was hoping we were still going to have a season. Those were the girls that did it, then they came back, and they stayed with the program. It shows you what kind of people they are – they are special girls. I can’t say enough good things about these seniors.”

The Red Devils travel to Casper this weekend to close out the regular season against undefeated Kelly Walsh (8-4) Friday, and Natrona County (6-3-1) Saturday. They’ll then travel to Rock Springs next week for the 4A West Regional Tournament, where they’ll likely face either Kelly Walsh or Natrona in the opening round.

“If we can only win one game, I’ll take that regional win,” Barton said. “We win that one, that’s the golden ticket. That’s the one I’m aiming for.”