The Gillette College women’s soccer team is having its best season in the young program’s history.
With 11 regular season wins this fall, the Pronghorns (11-2 overall, 7-1 Region IX) have topped their previous record of seven, with two more games left before the playoff schedule begins.
Pronghorns head coach Nate Ulness has been with the program team since Day one. He was an assistant coach with University of Mary women’s college soccer in North Dakota before landing the head job in Gillette in 2017 to start a new college soccer program.
“That was a big learning curve,” said Ulness, 29. “There were a lot of things that, as an assistant, you really don’t think about.
He was hired Feb. 1 that year and he had to scramble to find players to field a team in six months
In the first year, many would expect a new program to be penciled in as an easy win on other teams’ schedules, but the Pronghorns won seven games in the regular season and seven again last season.
“For us, it was making sure to compete,” Ulness said. “It was just being strong in those games, learning things and building. And just showing that we’re going to be a program that’s going to be coming up fast and strong.”
This year, with the arrival of the new turf Pronghorn Field and a talented group of freshmen, something clicked with the women wearing the methane blue and coal black.
“We’ve all come together really well, which has really helped us be able to play as a better team,” freshman forward Jaycie Greene said. “We’ve had no drama, no problems with each other or complications, so I feel like that team unity has really helped us play a lot better. We all have that mentality and that drive of wanting to go all the way.”
The success has been powered by a dominating offensive attack that averages more than five goals a game. Last year, the Pronghorns averaged fewer than two a game and finished with 24 total.
“Even our defenders can shoot,” said freshman forward Emma Jarvis, a Campbell County High School graduate who has 13 goals and 10 assists this season. “When we realize we need a goal, anybody can make it happen.”
This season, scoring has been by the bunches and spread around for the Pronghorns.
Four players have seven or more goals — Greene, Jarvis, midfielder Molly Fehringer and defense Sarah Williams. All four are in the freshmen class, which has led the goal scoring rush this season.
Greene, a Lehi, Utah, native, leads with 16 total goals, more than double that of the team’s top scorer last season.
“It’s nice to be able to see those results. The hard work I’m putting in is getting me there,” Greene said. “We’re all just pushing each other and holding each other accountable to get to that next level.”
On top of that, 15 players have scored in a game this season, displaying the depth that the team has. Even those who don’t start can take the field and do some damage.
But what makes this team different than the previous two seasons when the Pronghorns finished near .500?
“Last year, we had a lot of scoring opportunities. It just seemed like we couldn’t put anything in the back of the net,’” sophomore midfielder Kelsey Hogan said. “Everyone wants to score. It’s just a mentality thing, I think. We came into the season with kind of a chip on our shoulder like, ‘Hey, we’re good.’ And we want to prove that every game.”
Hogan and the group of seven sophomores have taken leadership roles as the more experienced players on the field, though the talented group of freshmen have done the most scoring.
“When we weren’t playing (well) together at the beginning. They brought everyone together, like, ‘Hey, we’re a team,’” Jarvis said about the sophomores bringing everyone in at the start of the season.
Nia Trejo is the lone Pronghorn goalkeeper this season. She has played in every game, even toughing it out when she is sick because nobody else has played significant time between the posts this season.
“I feel like (my performance) is where it needs to be right now. I’m still improving, and it’s definitely going to get better,” Trejo said.
Trejo often stands back on her section of the field alone for long stretches of the game as the Pronghorn offense pounds away at a tired opposing keeper. But when her time comes to make a stop, she’s made the save 84% of the time. She boasts three straight shutouts going into the last two games of the season.
The Pronghorns are scheduled to play Central Community College (5-9) on Saturday and then the sister school Sheridan College (6-5) on Oct. 19 for the home finale.
Ulness said his goal for the team was to do one better than last season and reach the Region IX championship.
“Last year we made it the semifinals. This year we want to be in the championship round,” Ulness said. “There’s no cap to the ceiling, but that’s what our ultimate immediate goal is for the big picture. Right now the small picture is every game at a time, every practice at a time, working as hard as we can.”
Lorenzo Solano is constantly fighting with his peers. It’s something of an addiction for the 15-year-old from Rock Springs.
He actually practices for fights every day of the week. Then on weekends, it’s not unusual for him to travel hundreds of miles for a chance to throw his hat in the ring.
It’s really not as bad as it sounds. Lorenzo is a jiujitsu fighter, and a pretty good one.
He started when he was 12 years old, thanks to a nudge from his father, Jason Solano. Lorenzo was a talented boxer even before that, but jiujitsu took hold on his life like nothing else had.
“I was good at it as soon as I started,” Lorenzo said. “It takes up most of my time. I do it every single day, except for Saturdays and Sundays, but other than that, I compete at almost every competition that comes up.”
Lorenzo has been competing at about eight or nine events per year since he started and it’s rare that he doesn’t walk away with a medal around his neck. Out of nearly 30 competitions, Lorenzo has failed to place just two times.
Dan Stroup, who is an assistant instructor at Western Plains Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Gillette, has watched Lorenzo compete on multiple occasions. Stroup has even watched Lorenzo go head to head with his son, Jake, and thinks very highly of the talented youngster out of Rock Springs.
“He’s an up-and-comer. He’s a young kid and he’s been training hard for the last couple years,” Stroup said. “One of the best things about Lorenzo is that he’s coachable. If an instructor tells him to do something a certain way, he does it. … He absolutely has what it takes.”
Rock Springs’ Wyo Faction is Western Plains’ sister school, so Dan Stroup has had plenty of opportunities to see Lorenzo fight. In the past couple of years, Lorenzo and Jack Stroup have competed against each other. Even though Lorenzo is two years younger, he always holds his own, Dan Stroup said.
While Lorenzo is not somebody you want to mess with on the mat, he’s a completely different person off it.
“When I get on the mat, I get more aggressive, and off the mat I’m calm,” Lorenzo said. “Usually I’m really nice and easy going, comfortable with everybody, talking to everybody. And then on the mats, I’m just going for submissions.”
Dan Stroup said that Lorenzo is usually “very laid back” and “not the kid you’d expect to choke you out.”
Lorenzo’s most recent competition was at the Western Plains Open in Gillette, where he won gold in both the teen no gi, levels 2-4, and the teen gi white belt divisions. He went undefeated during his six matches to win the two medals.
“There were some pretty tough kids out here,” he said. “It was definitely a tough run for the medal. I was competing really hard.”
At 15 years old, Lorenzo’s dreams are sky high. He’s seen success at almost every turn in jiujitsu and the goal is to eventually join the professional ranks.
Jiujitsu is still a very young sport at the professional level, but it’s growing quickly, Dan Stroup said. Fortunately for Lorenzo, one of the most highly touted jiujitsu organizations — Fight 2 Win — is located close by in Denver.
Seth Daniels heads Fight 2 Win and was the first person to actually pay his professional fighters, Dan Stroup said. Last year, his payouts exceeded $1 million.
Pro jiujitsu fighters usually don’t sign until they’re at least age 16, Dan Stroup said, so Lorenzo’s window of opportunity is about to open. His lofty goal isn’t just a fairy tale dream, either.
“Do I think Lorenzo has the ability (to go pro)? Absolutely,” Dan Stroup said.
Reaching the professional level isn’t Lorenzo’s only chance to stay in the sport, though. He is going to dedicate everything he has to jiujitsu, which will eventually mean spreading his love for the sport.
“I’m going to do this for the rest of my life,” Lorenzo said. “I want to get as far as I can with it and maybe go professional if I can, but I want to open up my own gym one day.”
Lorenzo has some big chances to showcase his fighting ability in the coming year. He’ll be competing at a tournament in Hawaii at the end of October before traveling to Las Vegas in June.
Mason Hamilton commits to Chadron
Thunder Basin High School quarterback Mason Hamilton committed to Chadron State College on Monday.
Hamilton is coming off a unanimous all-state season as a junior last season.
This year, he ranks second in the state for passing yardage at almost 250 yards per game. He has also led the Bolts to an undefeated and No. 1 ranking in 4A football this year.
Sherman plans to apologize to Mayfield
BEREA, Ohio — Richard Sherman is backpedaling after blitzing Baker Mayfield.
The outspoken San Francisco 49ers cornerback said Wednesday that he plans to apologize to Mayfield after accusing the Cleveland Browns quarterback of not shaking his hand before Monday night’s game.
Sherman initially said he felt Mayfield disrespected him before the pregame coin toss by ignoring him. But after videos showed that Mayfield did shake hands with Sherman, the defensive star changed his tune.
“It’s definitely my bad,” Sherman said Wednesday during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. “I never want anybody to have to deal with some stuff that they didn’t do. And so, you know, the questions that he’s gonna get and the annoying, nonsense questions about some stuff that happened in a game that’s already been done, you know, sure he’ll get an apology for that.
“I’ll probably reach out to him via text or social media to actually get ahold of him and talk to him in person, I mean on the phone. But, yeah, because that sucks. Yeah, yeah, he definitely deserves an apology, and that’s my bad on that.”
Mayfield threw two interceptions — one by Sherman in the first quarter — as the Browns were trounced 31-3 by the unbeaten 49ers.
Sherman said he still feels insulted by Mayfield, but that he probably should have “phrased it differently” during a postgame interview.
Mayfield will meet with reporters following practice.
Russia beats China to win men’s team gold
STUTTGART, Germany — Russia won its first men’s all-around team gymnastics world title since the end of the Soviet Union after a crucial fall from China.
China went into the high bar — the last rotation for both China and Russia — with a 1.394-point lead but Sun Wei’s fall allowed Russia to snatch the initiative on Wednesday.
Strong high bar routines from Ivan Stretovich, Artur Dalaloyan and Nikita Nagornyy lifted Russia to a total score of 261.726. That was 0.997 ahead of China, which had won the men’s team event at seven of the last eight world championships.
Nagornyy went last and sealed the win when he stuck his dismount. He said he shrugged off the pressure.
“I enjoyed the moment because these sensations and impressions that you feel before going out there, the responsibility, that’s something you can never find in life,” he said. “Only sports can give you emotions like that.”
Jaguars expect CB Jalen Ramsey to return
JACKSONVILLLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey is expected to return to practice Wednesday, two days after seeing a back specialist.
Coach Doug Marrone says the team is taking Ramsey’s potential return “step by step.” The Jaguars (2-3) host New Orleans (4-1) on Sunday.
Ramsey missed seven consecutive practices because of illness, back tightness and the birth of his second daughter. His back caused him to miss the last two games. He saw a specialist in Houston on Monday.
Marrone says the visit “just confirmed what our doctors have said.”
The two-time Pro Bowl selection told the Uninterrupted’s “17 Weeks” podcast last week that he’s dealt with back soreness at times during his NFL career.