JACKSON – When the final whistle blew at the end of the Girls 3A State Soccer Championship on Saturday, the sight of the Cody girls soccer team celebrating was a familiar one.
The Fillies won their third-straight championship at the tournament in Jackson, but it was just as special for the players.
“It’s the happiest moment of my life,” senior McKayla Moss said. “Everyone is so excited. It never gets old.”
The Fillies (17-1-1) defeated Newcastle 6-0 in the first round, Worland 1-0 in the semifinals and Buffalo 3-0 in the title match.
“From the minute the Worland game was over we were looking forward to it,” junior Moran Heydenberk said of the championship.
Sticking with traditions started before their first state title, the Fillies read a chapter of “Everything Your Coach Never Told You Because You’re a Girl: and Other Truths about Winning” before each game. They then picked phrases from the book to write on their arms like “No Regrets” and “Be Greedy” to help them remember the lessons.
“There’s a takeaway from each chapter,” Heydenberk said. “It helps us focus.”
Prior to taking the field the Fillies watched home team Jackson win the 4A boys title and it got them energized for their game.
“Watching Jackson win before us makes you remember the feeling and it’s the best feeling,” senior Natalie Call said. “It’s hard to put into words.”
Cody 3, Buffalo 0
Cody took control early on in the game and created multiple scoring opportunities. In the 24th minute, Moss dribbled up the right side past a defender and found the net.
Four minutes later Moss again dribbled up the field to the right corner and crossed to Autumn Wilson, who just missed getting a foot on the shot. A Bison kicked it out and it set up a corner kick for the Fillies.
Torrie Schutzman kicked the ball to Call just left of the net and she put it in to give Cody a 2-0 lead. It was her first goal of the season.
“It was pretty awesome,” she said. “I didn’t even know it went in until everyone started celebrating.”
Buffalo began putting pressure on the Fillies late in the half and goalie Tayler Kraut had to make a couple of diving saves.
“I was just focused and didn’t let up so I was ready for the shots,” she said.
The Fillies kept them off the board and the score remained 2-0 at the whistle.
“In the first half when we got the two-goal lead we settled back and were not playing possession,” Moss said.
Not happy with how her team played the last 20 minutes of the half, coach Marian Miears gave her team a pep talk.
“I told then we’d switched from playing Filly soccer to playing defense,” she said. “We weren’t attacking and that’s not how we play.”
It worked, because Cody came out strong again in the second half and on its first possession Wilson took a shot that was saved by a diving Bison keeper.
There was a barrage of Filly shots during the next few minutes from a variety of players including Alexa Prosceno, Heydenberk, Eliza Payne and Schutzman.
“A lot of us have played together since Yellowstone Fire which helps,” junior Baylee Stafford said. “We know where everyone is going to move to connect our passes.”
Cody did a good job spreading the field and connecting on its passes, allowing the players to have their way with Buffalo for the most part.
“We really connected as a team and did the best we have this season,” Moss said. “It was awesome.”
Defensively, the Fillies made it difficult for the Lady Bison to even get past midfield.
“We bunched the box with a lot of players,” Stafford said.
The Fillies’ final goal came in the 59th when Moss dribbled into the box, passed up to Wilson on the right and she found the right corner.
The remainder of the game, the Fillies had multiple shots that either went right to the keeper or were just outside the net.
“That was the best we’ve played the entire state tournament,” Miears said. “They were ready to go and had a great energy level.”
One of Buffalo’s final chances came on a corner kick, but Kraut jumped up and caught the ball and the Lady Bison didn’t threaten again.
On the sidelines the younger players started counting down the finals seconds and then the horn sounded and the Fillies celebrated.
“It’s crazy,” Stafford said. “I was super excited for our team. We’ve worked so hard and wanted it for the seniors’ last year.”
While the Fillies were the defending champs, there was a question mark early in the season and they had to put in an almost entirely new defensive back line.
“The team stepped up defensively we worked as a team,” Stafford said. “I think it was awesome, especially since we lost the seniors last year and it was a lot of new people.”
Afterward, being presented with the trophy, the Fillies milled around for a while, taking pictures with the trophy and selfies with the coaches.
There was even mention of a summer camp out and a sense they weren’t quite ready for the season to end.
“It was fun,” Moss said. “Our hard work paid off and we had great team chemistry. We all wanted it and worked together. I’ll miss spending time with the team.”
Stafford agreed, “My favorite part of the season was hanging out with these girls. I love being on this team.”