Whitney Hansen a standout, all-state player for Lander Valley High School a year ago, has continued her stellar soccer career at Laramie County Community College.
Hansen and her Golden Eagle teammates are headed for Evans, Georgia this Sunday for the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship tournament.
The Golden Eagles advanced to the culminating event after winning the Region IX Tournament in Pueblo, Colorado, then defeating Region 10 Champion Seminole State of Oklahoma at Johnson Junior High School in Cheyenne.
The road to the championships began a little rocky with Laramie County dropping their first five games of the season.
Hansen’s path to the starting rotation began a little slow as well. The freshman played in the first five games, then became a starter after that in the next 14.
“The coach was finding different combinations to get things figured out,” Hansen’s father Ron said, “The last three weeks have been nothing short of spectacular.”
Hansen plays in the center of the field, primarily as a defensive midfielder, but she also plays the opposite position offensively.
In that slow early start, the Golden Eagles fell to five of the 12 teams advancing to the national finals and to a pair of four-year Division II schools in Colorado State Pueblo, and the Colorado School of Mines.
Laramie County isn’t an offensive powerhouse, but they play excellent defense and kept the score low in nearly all their games.
The Golden Eagles began their march to the championship with a 6-3 win over Western Nebraska in the quarterfinals before proceeding to Pueblo for the Region IX Final Four.
Hansen found a familiar face on the opposite side of the field in her friend Emma Goetz who plays for Casper College.
Goetz is a forward for the Thunderbirds and one of their leading freshmen scorers with five goals and a pair of assists on the season.
The former Lander Valley Tiger teammates battled throughout regulation, and into the first overtime with the score tied 1-1. Hansen had an assist to Caroline Kuhn for the Golden Eagles’ only regulation goal in the second half.
After a scoreless overtime period, Laramie County won the match on penalty kicks.
In the Region IX final, they faced Otero Community College, a team that had beaten them 2-0 during the regular season. This time the Golden Eagles took the game 2-1 to win the region.
The NJCAA tournament committed determined that the winners of Region IX and Region X would have to play a qualifying game to move on to nationals, so Seminole State made the trip to Cheyenne.
Seminole State was second-ranked nationally with only one loss when they played the qualifying game.
Laramie County jumped ahead 2-0 and missed a penalty kick on a blustery Cheyenne afternoon with sustained winds of 25 mph throughout the game.
Seminole State scored with four minutes remaining in the contest to close to 2-1, but Laramie County’s defense took over and they continue their season beginning next Sunday in Georgia.
Just minutes after the game ended, a 60 mph wind roared over the field sending chairs and equipment flying into the fence, a typical fall afternoon in Cheyenne.
The Golden Eagles open with Hill College of Texas, then play defending national champion Eastern Florida. Laramie County dropped a 2-1 decision to Eastern Florida earlier in the season.