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Amber Hyatt, the head girls soccer coach at Mountain Crest, has several fond memories of mentoring dynamic forward Baylie Baldwin during her four seasons in the program.

Hyatt still remembers the first time Baldwin played in a varsity match as a freshman in the fall of 2018.

“She had the most confused/nervous look on her face — one of, ‘like me? Really?’ But I’ve always been confident in her talent and ability to score goals and give it 100 percent every time she’s on the field,” Hyatt said.

Indeed, Baldwin has made an impact at the varsity level ever since she was a freshman. Nevertheless, the Wellsville native has also made significant strides during her high school career.

The one constant about Baldwin, though, is she has always been fearless, in spite of her diminutive frame. The daughter of Cami and Mike Baldwin is only 5-foot-1, but that hasn’t prevented her from developing into arguably the top forward in the 4A classification. Baldwin’s speed, tenacity, work rate, technical ability and tactical awareness more than makes up for her lack of size.

“Baylie is small, but mighty,” Hyatt said. “She will never give up. I remember at the first Ridgeline game (this past season), there was an opportunity to score and Baylie got knocked down two or three times inside the box, but instead of trying to get a foul she kept popping back up to her feet and eventually ended up scoring a goal. That happened all the time. She would get beat up a little bit and fall down, but she was back on her feet as quick as she fell. She was always trying to get the ball and create opportunities whenever possible.”

Baldwin excelled at creating scoring opportunities throughout her four seasons at Mountain Crest, but especially during the 2021 campaign. No. 12 was equally adept at finding the back of the net and facilitating for her teammates this past season. Baldwin finished with exactly the same number of goals and assists (15 apiece) as a senior.

More importantly, she helped propel the Mustangs to their first state championship since 1998. Mountain Crest went 17-2 in 2021 and scored multiple goals in all but two matches.

“Honestly, it was the best feeling ever to be that team that finally won state after so many years,” said Baldwin, who has been a mainstay in Mountain Crest’s starting lineup ever since late into her freshman season. “And the fact that we did it was just crazy to me, especially my senior year. That’s like the icing on the cake; that’s the way to finish your high school (career), so that was so fun.”

Indeed, it was a special season for Baldwin and the Mustangs. Baldwin’s ability to wreak havoc in the attack, plus be a consummate teammate, has earned her The Herald Journal All-Valley Player of the Year award.

“Baylie is one of those players that every coach loves to have on their team,” Hyatt said. “She was super quick, had great footwork, hard worker, competitive, etc. The list goes one. I definitely call myself lucky that I was able to coach her and watch her develop over the last four years.”

Baldwin and the Mustangs were eliminated in the playoffs by the eventual state champions in each of the previous two seasons, plus they lost in heartbreaking fashion to eventual runner-up Orem in double overtime in the semifinals when she was a freshman. Mountain Crest was not about to be denied in ’21, though.

“I always looked at it as like, ‘oh, it’s OK. I still have three more years,’” Baldwin said when asked about the aforementioned Orem match. “But that was like the first time I had really cried after a soccer game because I loved those seniors, so losing (the match) was so hard. But then coming back my senior year and being able to win, I cried after, but they were tears of joy and it was such a great feeling to finish that way.”

The Mustangs were explosive, yet stingy this past season as they racked up 69 goals and only conceded 15 in 19 matches, and Baldwin was the catalyst. Mountain Crest’s only two loses were by one goal to a 16-2 Highland (Idaho) side and in a penalty kick shootout to Sky View.

Mountain Crest went 3-0 against rival Ridgeline, the defending state champions and back-to-back 4A finalists. The Mustangs’ last win over the Riverhawks took place in a tense shootout in the 4A state semifinals after neither team found the back of the net during the 100-plus minutes of action.

“I don’t want to sound ridiculous, but it’s the best thing ever to beat your rival and go on and win the state championship,” said Baldwin, who started competing at the club level when she was 8 years old. “They (Ridgeline) did it last year, so I was like, ‘it’s our turn this year.’ And we came out and we won, and I think going through that even made us play stronger the next game.”

Baldwin suffered an injury late in the semifinal showdown with Ridgeline and was held out of the shootout, but returned the following day and was a menace in Mountain Crest’s 1-0 triumph over Crimson Cliffs in overtime in the title tilt. She didn’t score against top-seeded Crimson Cliffs, but fired a shot off the post, missed two others by a matter of inches and had a few other legitimate chances to dent the scoreboard.

Baldwin’s ability to be a game changer despite not being 100 percent healthy is one of many things that have stood out to Hyatt.

“She’s an amazing competitor,” Hyatt said. “She’s dealt with some injuries over the years and hated not being able to practice or play in some games because of it. We would be conditioning sometimes and I’d tell her to go ice, or take a break, etc., and somehow she’d sneak back in the line to condition with everyone, even if she was limping. It took me forcing her to sit out sometimes to get some of those injuries healed.”

Baldwin was willing to go the extra mile and play through the pain in order to help her team reach its goals. It was Baldwin’s way of giving back to the sport that has enriched her life ever since she was a toddler.

“Soccer has definitely helped make me the person that I am today,” said Baldwin, who paced the Mustangs in goals and assists as a senior, and was the team’s leading goal scorer (12) as a junior. “I have met so many people through soccer. Some of my best friends have come through soccer and I’m very grateful for that. And it also keeps me in shape all year long. Playing it all year round is definitely a commitment, but I wouldn’t change it. I love it, so I’m grateful for it.”

Baldwin has the ability to score goals in bunches, but was better known for her consistency throughout her senior year. Baldwin — who finished second among all Cache Valley high school players in both goals and assists — only scored two or more goals twice this past fall, but she found the back of the net in 11 different games and was credited with an assist on 11 different occasions.

Additionally, she dished out two or three assists in matches against Highland (Idaho), Sky View and West Jordan. Baldwin took a great deal of pride in “setting others up to score, which I think is more special than scoring a goal. I love other people scoring and that’s always fun to see your teammates score.”

“I love how unselfish Baylie has always been,” Hyatt said. “She always had the team’s best interest in mind. She didn’t care who was scoring the goals and truly was sometimes more excited when other people scored instead of herself. It’s always fun being the one to score goals, but Baylie really didn’t care who was scoring the goals as long as we were winning games, and that is so valuable in a player and team leader.”

Baldwin raved about the strong bond the Mustangs were able to form in ’21. Playing alongside three of her cousins in Riley Baldwin, Addyson Sofonia and Summer Sofonia surely helped. This was Summer Sofonia’s freshman season, so it’s the only time the four of them were able to play at the high school level together.

“Playing with them was definitely the highlight of my senior year,” said Baldwin, who netted four goals in a win over West Jordan and recorded a brace in her side’s second victory over Ridgeline. “I’m so grateful for them.”

Hyatt is certainly grateful for the contributions she received from Baldwin, both as a player, leader and mentor.

“She wanted everyone around her to succeed and that made her a great team leader,” said Hyatt, who went out to praise Baldwin for how coachable she has been. “... She is an amazing person inside and out. She’s genuinely kind and got along with everyone on the team.”

OFFENSIVE MVP

Macy Hellstern, Sr., Sky View

To their credit, the Bobcats broke out of their midseason slump and won six of their last seven matches, with that lone setback being in a shootout to top-seeded Crimson Cliffs in the semifinals of the 4A State Championships.

Hellstern was a big reason why Sky View peaked at the right time. After all, the forward contributed with eight goals and four assists in the Bobcats’ final seven games. During that stretch, Hellstern assisted on both second-half goals against Mountain Crest, plus she came through with the equalizer late in regulation against Green Canyon in the 4A quarterfinals. The Bobcats won both of those matches in a shootout.

No. 10 finished with a valley-best 17 goals and also chipped in with seven assists. Hellstern recorded a hat trick against Bear River and braces against Pine View, Hurricane, Bountiful and Logan. Additionally, the first-team all-state selection netted the game-winner in Sky View’s regular season finale against Green Canyon — a victory that ultimately gave the Bobcats home field advantage in their aforementioned quarterfinal showdown.

“Macy Hellstern was a very valuable (contributor to) our team this year,” SV head coach Jillian Carver said. “She is such an athlete, in all aspects. Macy is a player that I could look at and say, ‘we need a goal.’ She then would go take care of it. It is pretty special to have a player with the mindset and skill set to be able to say that to and know it’s probably going to happen.”

DEFENSIVE MVP

Carly Eubanks, Sr., Ridgeline

The Riverhawks played extremely well defensively at the end of the season as they didn’t allow a goal in four of their last five matches. Additionally, Ridgeline was the only team this season that kept Mountain Crest off the scoreboard, although the Mustangs did ultimately prevail in a shootout.

Eubanks was the athlete that anchored Ridgeline’s stingy backline, plus she also proved to be a scoring threat late in the season on set pieces. No. 14 scored on a lengthy free kick against Green Canyon, plus she headed in a pair of goals in the Riverhawks’ second regular season matchup against the Mustangs.

Ridgeline head coach Mark Tureson raved about Eubank’s “competitive intensity” and went on to say “it was hard to find someone that channeled their intensity better than Carly.” Eubanks, one of the Beehive State’s top prep swimmers, was a big reason why the Riverhawks recorded nine clean sheets in ‘21, plus limited three more opponents to a single goal.

“Carly is a special player,” Tureson said. “She has been a four-year starter and has grown into a keystone of our defense over the past two years. She is tall, fast and very strong, and often took the challenge of marking our opponents’ top players. She has been a tremendous asset for our team and a major contributor to our team success these past few years. What makes Carly so effective as a central defender was her accurate read of the game. She was so good at anticipating where she needed to be or what space an opposing player was going into, and she would be there to intervene.”

TOP NEWCOMER

Hadli Barrera, Fr., Mountain Crest

Several freshmen from Cache Valley were flat-out difference makers on the pitch this past fall, and two really emerged as lethal scoring threats in Barrera and Logan’s Mia Lopez. Both athletes made a huge impact in 2021, but Barrera was ultimately able to stay more healthy.

Not only is Barrera very quick and technical, she also has a flair for finishing in spectacular fashion from outside the 18-yard box. No. 24 finished second on the team in goals (13) and assists (eight), and was a huge reason the Mustangs won eight more games than they did a year ago.

Mountain Crest made a big statement in its Region 11 opener — a 6-1 road triumph over Sky View — and Barrera spearheaded that charge with a trio of goals. The freshman also recorded braces against West Jordan and Green Canyon, plus contributed with a pair of assists in wins against Preston and Desert Hills (4A quarterfinal match).

“Hadli is such an amazing and talented player, and I was so lucky to have coached her this season,” Hyatt said of her first-team all-state honoree. “Watching her throughout the summer and at tryouts, I knew she was something special and would be a great contributor to our team this year. Even though Hadli was a freshman, she easily fit into our team dynamic and quickly earned her starting spot. Hadli is an all-around excellent player that really helped us win the state championship.”

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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