ST. GEORGE – The first round of the 4A playoffs was disappointing for Region 9 on Wednesday. Snow Canyon was the only team to pull off a win, and even that was just by a hair. Dixie, Desert Hills and Cedar were all bounced after their opponents made second half runs. Even though each team can consider the season, as a whole, a success, only Snow Canyon will get a chance at a state championship. Here’s a recap of the action:
Snow Canyon 1, Juan Diego 0
Heidi Smith scored the only goal of the game to lead the Lady Warriors over the Soaring Eagle in a revenge game from last year’s 3A semifinals. The teams have now played every year in the playoffs since 2012.
“Ugly win, but we’ll take it.” Lady Warriors coach Kenny Kunde said. “It’s just one of those mental games for us, regardless of how good (each team is). Played ugly, but we pulled it off. That just proves that we can win when we play ugly.”
The Lady Warriors had a chance in the first minute when Ashley Brindley stole the ball after a Juan Diego player tripped. Brindley had a great look, but the ball went off the left post and out of bounds.
The Lady Warriors would continue to shoot the ball, totaling nine shots in the first half, compared to three for Juan Diego.
The Soaring Eagle also came into the game and played extremely aggressive. Some calls, and no-calls, had fans up in arms.
“I don’t think (the girls) got scared about the physicality, but I do think it affected their touch a little bit,” Kunde said. “They really wanted to get away from the pressure and made their touches a little bit not as tight and controlled as we like to have it. There’s no way they’d back down to that physical play. We took bloody noses, got run over in the back, got right back up and went right back at them. Our girls did a good job handling themselves with the physical play.”
Late in the first half, Smith had a chance to score, but was fouled before she could get a shot off inside the box. Smith took the penalty kick, only to have it go off the right post and out of bounds.
The teams would go into halftime with no score.
With the teams playing each other for six consecutive years now, both had to make adjustments. Juan Diego was getting close to receiving yellow cards, while the Lady Warriors were called for so many offsides that they could not get their normal offensive flow going.
Smith was the main focus for the Soaring Eagle back line, as she has scored eight goals this year by pressing high and able to go one-on-one with goalies.
“I always try to press high and their defense read that well,” Smith said. “Every time I would run back, their defenders would step forward. I’m used to defenders running back with me. But they would stop and I would run past them. The ball would come to me and I would be offside. Sooner or later one was going to come.”
In the 50th minute, Lady Warriors goalie Megan Rodgers got a save and booted the ball downfield. A Juan Diego defender attempted to head the ball forward, but it went off the back of her head and toward the Soaring Eagle goal. Smith, who was already pressing high, got the ball and went one-on-one with the keeper. Smith put the ball in, giving the Lady Warriors a 1-0 lead.
“When I kicked it I was like, ‘Just go score,’” Rodgers said.
“I knew one was going to come sooner or later,” Smith said. “Finally, I got a ricochet and I was thankfully pressing high again. The chance came and I decided to take it and didn’t fail.”
“Heidi did a good job on that ball from the keeper and popped it in for us,” Kunde said. “Right place, right time for her. It was good.”
The Soaring Eagle had a chance in the 65th minute to tie the game with a long possession. Just as the ball was nearing the goal, Rodgers stepped in and took possession before a shot could be made.
Snow Canyon was almost able to add an insurance goal late in the second half when Arantxa Melendez took a free kick. The ball went off the crossbar and appeared to go in but was really just inches in front of the line. A header by the Lady Warriors had the same result. The ball ended up going out of bounds with the score staying 1-0 in favor of Snow Canyon.
During the last five minutes, the Lady Warriors seemed tense. Kunde could be heard yelling from the sideline for his team to calm down and just play the game.
“The last five minutes, everyone was really jittery,” Rodgers said. “We needed to not let them score and because we lost to them last year.”
The last chance for the Soaring Eagle came in the final minute when Daviana Vaka, who played with many Lady Warriors growing up, was closing in on the goal. Rodgers dove on top of the ball to preserve the shutout win. She then kicked the ball far out of bounds to run out the final 20 seconds of the game.
“I didn’t want to let them score because I did not want to go into overtime,” she said. “I saw it bounce off one of our defenders and I was like, ‘This is my chance.’ I just went and dove on it.’”
The win puts the Lady Warriors as the only Region 9 team to prevail on Wednesday. But the team is just glad to be moving onto the second round.
“Nerves got to us a bit,” Kunde said. “Hopefully the nerves are over and (the girls) understand that it’s next one up and they’re a good team and they can go out and do what they’ve done in region and play well and compete with anybody in the 4A classification.
“The nerves of the first game are always the hardest. Now we know that all the teams in 4A are good. You have to bring it every game.”
The Lady Warriors will now host the Logan Grizzlies, Region 12’s second seed, on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Grizzlies beat Orem 1-0 in Logan on Wednesday and went 8-5-3 overall in the regular season. Both teams played Davis in the preseason, with Snow Canyon winning 2-1 and Logan losing 4-3.
Smith said the team is glad to be playing at home.
“It’s really important for us. It gives us the home advantage,” she said. “They’ll be coming off a (long) bus ride. We’ll have fresh legs and the right mentality because it’s our turf. We’ll be ready and our focus will be back up again.”
Park City Miners 2, Dixie 0
“We were dominate the first half with a lot of shots on goal, especially in the first 20 minutes,” Flyers coach Sam Gibbs said. “We just didn’t put them in. They attacked our shooters and were able to stop them. Halftime was 0-0 when we should have had several goals. A quick goal for them in the second half really deflated us.”
Gibbs, however, was very pleased with how the season turned out for the Flyers.
“Whenever you lose in the playoffs, you’re not totally happy, but I’m really happy for the girls for the season,” he said. “They came off an unsuccessful year where they didn’t make the playoffs and had a ton of growth. They were unified the whole year. There were no games that pulled us apart.
“I am sad for the seniors, though. This was their only playoff game and they didn’t get to win it. But they were really great leaders for us this year.”
The Flyers took a big loss late in the season when star defensive player Delaney Story tore ligaments in her knee. Gibbs said that hurt the team, but the team was still very deep.
“She was the heart of the defense. I had to move the next best defender there and a ripple effect happened everywhere else,” he said. “We did a lot of different tactics to help everyone out. Losing her hurts, but it’s not only one player on the team. We have 36 players from varsity to freshman. The next player up really did a great job and everyone played amazing this year.”
Story hopes to be back in time for the start of next season, which will be her last. Dixie will lose Kourtney Kezos on the defensive side, as well as McKayla Stucki, Rebekah Snow, McKenna Mcallister, Averie Howes and McCall Maynard. However, players such as Story, Kennedy Warnick, Lindsey Barben, Jessica Vasquez and Piper Cuff should all be back for next year. Dixie will be a favorite to make next year’s playoffs.
Bonneville 2, Desert Hills 0
Thunder coach Benji Nelson said his team had chances to score, but just didn’t finish. That has been the struggle all season.
He also said that he was very proud of his team. “It is tough to travel up north and play on grass,” he said. “But if you want to be state champions, you have to find a way to do so.”
Nelson said his team had a great season in Region 9. Through all of region, the Thunder never lost by more than one goal. The defense was amazing, but the offense just didn’t’ finish. Four starters went down at some point in the season. It was tough, but gave other girls a chance to step up and play.
Nelson also said he is excited to have most of his team back next year. He expects several girls to mature in the off season and make the team even better. They will be deep at every position and will be able to put great competition. He knows that Region 9 will not get any easier, but will be tough to beat if they can finish on offense.
The Thunder will lose Jess Mathis, Kylee Westhoff, Kodee Bracken, Rylee Robinson and Mallory Iverson. Returning players include Riane Hall, Drew Morby, Tanayia Crosby, Kenzie Woolley and Robyn Neville.
Ogden Tigers 3, Cedar 2
Alysia Butters scored in the first half for the Tigers, while Kadrey Howell scored midway through the second half and Sarah Halverson sealed the game later on. Freshman Lana Mccurry finished with two assists.
Kaitlyn Rowley scored on a penalty kick in the first half for the Lady Reds, while Julia Hunt scored later.
Lady Reds coach Scott Kamachi was not available for comments.
Cedar will lose Tasha Kamachi, Julia and Rachel Hunt, Ashley Jenkins, Jessica Cox, Lauren Craft, Janecca Jolley, Hannah Sobel, Brooke Shoop and Ellie Kucifer. Key returning players include Morgan Crites, Logann Laws, Brylee Winn, Lexi Bird, Michelle Jenkins and Cali Kucifer.
4A first round results
Logan 1, Orem 0
Snow Canyon 1, Juan Diego 0
Bonneville 2, Desert Hills 0
Green Canyon 3, Salem Hills 2
Park City 2, Dixie 0
Sky View 8, Lehi 0
Spanish Fork 1, Ridgeline 0
Ogden 3, Cedar 2
4A quarterfinals (Saturday at 1 p.m.)
Logan @ Snow Canyon
Green Canyon at Bonneville
Park City at Sky View
Ogden at Spanish Fork
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