Katie Notman fights off a defender for the ball during a game last season.

Just two days after appearing in the state tournament for the first time in program history, the Lady Cats walked off the field in Jackson Hole wanting more. After years of struggles and growing pains to construct a path forward for girls soccer in Douglas, postseason validation had been achieved.

It was a disappointing loss after the emotional high of accomplishing a program first. This season the Lady Cats have vowed to remember that feeling. To use it to their advantage, in a way that will allow them to harness both the positive and negative emotions for the purpose of growth and maturity.

“We know what we have to do now,” junior Andi Hunsicker said. “We know what type of intensity we have to bring in practice and know that we can’t get down on ourselves. We can fight back.”

Douglas won four of its first five games last season and won five of nine games by at least two goals or more. It finished the season with a goal differential of plus eight, its highest since the program first began.

The Lady Cats more than showed their resilience in 2018. They also showed off their ability to score. First-year head coach Skylar Hatanelas has high hopes for this year’s group to continue building, both on and off the field.

“It’s all going to be earned,” Hatanelas said as her team warmed up on the mostly snow covered football field prior to Monday’s practice. “I’m already extremely proud of their work ethic. We have a lot of potential and we’re super motivated to continue building off of last year.”

Hatanelas has several years of experience coaching soccer at the youth level and served as an assistant coach for the boys varsity team last year under former head coach Corey Toldson.

“I learned so much about the game from her (Toldson),” Hatanelas said. “I saw how important character is. I want (us) to be more concerned with what’s going on off the field.”

The same soccer program that began with longtime head coach Ron Wagner nine years ago, continues to evolve into something stronger with each passing year. Hatanelas recognizes the profound effect that Wagner left on the program and during her first year at the helm, hopes to maintain that progress.

She returns a team of five seniors and eight juniors, including one of the conference’s best goal scorers in 2018 in Hunsicker. The junior scored a team-high 15 goals and added four assists. Douglas also returns Katie Notman, who tallied three goals and five assists. Denali Bergquist and Allie Peasley also return after two goal seasons.

“We have a lot of experience this year,” Hunsicker said. “You can see it. We’re working better with each other.”

The Lady Cats also return MacKenzie Miller, Audrey Peasley, Kali Fernald, Hailey Bjornson, Amber Hight, Noel Black, Tessa Raba and Shayla Moore. Senior goalie Alexa Williams returns after a 157-save season, second best in 3A.

Up until now, Douglas has spent limited time outdoors due to last week’s snowstorm and unfair playing conditions. Last Tuesday’s season opener at Cody was rescheduled to next Tuesday, March 26. The first action of the season, pending field conditions, will take place Friday and Saturday at a tournament in Green River.

The journey back to Jackson Hole begins Friday for the Lady Cats. Now they’re simply hoping for Mother Nature to cooperate.

“I’m excited for them,” Hatanelas said. “We’re ready to work hard.”

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