SANDY — There’s no question it’s been a season to remember for Green Canyon’s girls soccer team.
Not only did the Wolves win eight more games than they did a year ago, they scored a whopping 39 more goals.
Green Canyon was also very, very stingy defensively, but ultimately a rough 12-minute stretch to end the first half proved costly against arguably 4A’s most explosive offense. Top-seeded Ogden scored all of its goals during that timespan and then held on to beat fourth-seeded Green Canyon, 3-2, in the semifinals of the 4A State Championships on Thursday afternoon at Jordan High School.
“(We) are tough. (We’re) a resilient group,” said GC head coach Sven Rasmussen, whose side qualified for the 4A semis for the first time in the program’s three-year history. “We just reminded them that we were a team that didn’t even qualify for the playoffs last year, and so to respond and see the growth that have had has been amazing. I know it really hurts in the moment. Don’t get me wrong, this sucks, I’m not liking this feeling, but thinking big picture we still had a good season. We have great girls and we’re going to keep most of them around, so we’ll have another go at it next year.”
Things were looking pretty bleak for Green Canyon, which trailed 3-1 at halftime and had a difficult time carving out legitimate chances in the attacking third of the pitch during the second half. To their credit, the Wolves kept battling, and it paid off in the 72nd minute.
Green Canyon’s Claire Campbell was taken down from behind in the 18-yard box, and Kylie Olsen buried the resulting penalty kick to pare her team’s deficit to 3-2. The relentless Olsen also created a couple of more scoring opportunities in the second half, and Emma Deberard forced Ogden goalkeeper Allison Collinwood to parry away one of her shots for a corner kick.
The Wolves (13-3-2) had one last-ditch effort to extend their season when Maggie Stephens gamely outbattled an Ogden defender to gain possession in the 18, but she didn’t have a great shooting angle and her strike to the far post went wide with about 15 seconds remaining in the match.
“I’m really proud of us,” GC center back McKenna Crane said. “I feel like we came out of the first half and realized we needed to change our mindset, and I feel like we came out really strong and just worked well as a team.”
Crane and Kennedy Eskelson anchored a Green Canyon backline that kept a potent Ogden attack off the scoreboard in the second half, despite the Wolves transitioning “to three in the back against a team that has three forwards,” Rasmussen said.
The Wolves did an outstanding job dealing with several inviting end line crosses by the Tigers (17-2-0) in the second half. Green Canyon keeper Brooke Watkins, who finished her junior season with 12 shutouts, was also called upon to make a couple of clutch saves.
Green Canyon only conceded 10 goals in 17 matches this fall.
“I’m really proud of how (we played defensively), but it’s not just the backline, it’s our whole entire team,” Crane said. “You know, defense starts from up at the top and our midfield works so hard, so I’m just proud of us and how we worked together defensively.”
The first 28 minutes of the match was pretty uneventful in terms of prime scoring opportunities, but the final 12 minutes of the opening half featured four goals.
Ogden struck first when Abby Beus used her blazing speed to beat a pair of defenders off the dribble. Beus dribbled to the end line and played a ball back to the feet of Kadrey Howell, who slotted a one-time finish inside the back post.
The Wolves equalized one minute later when the Tigers were unable to clear a corner kick, and Stephens crashed the goal and scored from point-blank range amidst a cluster of players.
Ogden took the lead for good two minutes later when Beus capitalized on a defensive miscue by Green Canyon and beat Watkins one-v-one.
The Tigers’ final goal of the half was netted with less than 30 seconds remaining on the clock and was a painful one for the Wolves to swallow. Alysia Buttars lofted an ambitious shot from well outside the 18 that was tipped off the crossbar by Watkins. The loose ball deflected off a Green Canyon player and trickled across the goal mouth with one player from each team converging at the back post.
Heading into the match, Ogden had scored an impressive 87 goals, including a combined 46 by Buttars and Howell.
“There’s no shame in losing against a team like Ogden,” Rasmussen said. “They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. Definitely one of the most dynamic front lines that we’ve seen.”
The Tigers extended their winning streak to 10 and will now square off against Ridgeline in Friday’s championship match at Real Salt Lake’s Rio Tinto Stadium.
It was the final match for a trio of Green Canyon seniors in Olsen, Stephens and Eskelson. Rasmussen got emotional when talking about the strengths of each of his 12th-graders.
“I think each of them have left their own distinct mark on the program,” he said. “... I think the world of those three girls and they’ll be remembered, for sure, by me and at Green Canyon. They’re such great girls.”