RIVERTON Ask soccer people whether they'd rather deal with freezing temperatures, pouring rains or gusting winds, and the answer at least among coaches and players will be unanimous in favor of taking on those first two items and not the third.
High winds can destroy perfectly good soccer games, and fourth-ranked Pine View of Class 4A and Riverton of Class 5A came up against some pretty stiff ones when they took the field at Riverton High Wednesday afternoon.
After it was over and the two teams had battled to a 1-1 double-overtime draw, both coaches pointed out that they were disappointed to see their respective teams struggle when playing into the wind. But this much was perfectly clear: Whichever team had the wind at its back whether it was the first half, the second half, the first overtime or the second overtime largely controlled play.
"Whatever way the wind was going, that was where the possession was," said first-year Pine View coach Sam Johnston. "The wind obviously played a factor. I don't know if it was mental or what."
Playing into the wind in the first half, Pine View struggled mightily on defense and fell behind 1-0 in the 40th minute. After switching sides and changing up their defense, however, the Panthers looked much better over the course of the second half.
Star forward Riley Dias, a first-team All-Stater during Pine View's 3A state-championship run of a season ago, equalized in the 61st minute and the Panthers created a number of opportunities after that.
However, Pine View didn't convert any of them, and neither team found a breakthrough in overtime.
Senior defender Cory Cardwell scored for Riverton in the first half.
For all the talk about the wind, however, don't forget this: At times, both teams showed they could play.
Riverton, which has been at or near the top of Region 3 over the past several seasons, has struggled with consistency during the preseason, and playing Wednesday with the wind didn't lend itself to putting together 80 minutes of good soccer.
But coach Paul Moizer pointed out after that he feels his group has gotten better over the last two-and-a-half weeks.
"At times, we look really good. And then at other times we don't know where to go,' he said. "But there's enough glimmers of hope to think that we're going in the right direction."
On the other hand, Pine View, which was moved by the UHSAA up to 4A, showed Wednesday it can play with the big boys. Between Dias, goalkeeper Francisco Martinez, defender Jonathan Esplin and others, the Panthers have the talent and the potential to be a major player in May."We have a lot to work on," said Dias, "but we're exactly where I think we need to be in the preseason. It's awesome to come up here and play these teams. They're skilled. It gives us a lot of challenges. It makes us ready for whenever (the) playoffs come around."