Hawks edged by Tigers in 4A title match
SANDY — It wasn’t the ending the Riverhawks were dreaming of, but they certainly proved they absolutely belonged at the beautiful, expansive pitch of Rio Tinto Stadium.
Ridgeline limited an explosive, dynamic Ogden attack in the run of play and won the possession battle, but a couple of miscues proved costly in a 2-1 loss to the top-seeded Tigers in the title match of the 4A Girls State Soccer Championships on a sunny Friday afternoon at Real Salt Lake’s home field.
“That’s been the most important part is the group and how they’ve come together, how they’ve pulled together,” Ridgeline head coach Mark Tureson said. “The journey’s been the victory for us, that whole process. Sometimes the best team doesn’t win the day, and I can say that today. Our girls were the better team, but sometimes you don’t get those breaks.”
Indeed, the Riverhawks (15-4-1) were the more potent side in the run of play, and a crisp build-up led to a corner kick that nearly resulted in a goal in the fourth minute. London Miller’s corner found its way inside the 6-yard box, where it was finally cleared after a couple nervy seconds for the Tigers (18-2-0).
Second-seeded Ridgeline had one other golden opportunity to dent the scoreboard in the first half, this time on a nice, penetrating run off the dribble by Halle Van Yperen in the 23rd minute. The junior slotted a well-weighed diagonal ball to London Miller, who didn’t quite connect cleanly enough on her 12-yard shot.
Legitimate scoring chances were few and far between for both teams in the first half, but Ogden caught a break in the 27th minute. Ridgeline goalkeeper Aspen Wallin was unable to corral a loose ball at the back post, and Ogden’s Bonita Gray was there to finish into an open net.
“Yeah, it was a mistake and they capitalized on it, but our girls battled back,” Tureson said. “They didn’t get rattled, they stuck to the game plan and we got the result that we wanted, we got the goal that we wanted. It’s just unfortunate (we gave up the penalty kick). Their girl got on the back side and our girl was just eager to get in front, and took her down. And I’m not going to fault a player for trying to do what she felt was right, trying to get back into good position.”
The Region 11 champions were able to equalize on a calm, collected finish by Tenzi Knowles midway through the second half. A Ridgeline free kick took a deflection into the path of Knowles, who tucked an unsavable shot inside the far post.
“It got us really excited and we were ready to go after that,” Ridgeline midfielder Olivia Smith said of the equalizer. “We were ready to get another one, and we almost did.”
Yes, the Riverhawks nearly did. A few minutes later, Marley Guevara’s beautiful, curling shot from just outside the 18-yard box appeared to be destined for the back of the net, but Tiger keeper Allison Collinwood made a spectacular, athletic play, snaring the ball on the full extension.
A few minutes later, the Tigers netted the game-winning goal on a penalty kick. Standout forward Abby Beus cut the ball back to her left foot and was clipped just outside the 6. Alysia Butters took the resulting PK for the Region 10 champs and blasted it home top shelf in the 71st minute.
Beus almost set up a Butters goal earlier in the second half on a nice end line pass to feet, but Ridgeline center back Carly Eubanks was positioned well to block Butters’ shot.
With the exception of that shot and the penalty kick, the Riverhawks bottled up the Tigers in the penalty area. Ogden, which has scored a whopping 92 goals this season, was limited to nine shots.
“Absolutely,” Tureson said when asked if this was his team’s best defensive performance of the season. “I mean, this is a phenomenally explosive team that we played against, and really other than the two mistakes (by us, Ogden) really didn’t have much going forward, they didn’t have a lot going at us. ... And our midfield played well. We disrupted their midfield like we wanted to.”
To their credit, the Tigers also played very well defensively as, although they conceded a lot of possession, they held the Riverhawks to nine shots and two corner kicks. Ogden, which ended its season on a 11-game winning streak, did an especially good job killing the final eight or so minutes of the game.
It was the final match for 11 Ridgeline seniors in Samantha Carlston, Kennedy Demler, Peighton Harward, Hannah Johnson, Abbie Kotter — whose work rate has been top notch all season long — Miller, Shelby Murphy, Smith, Wallin and Samantha Wiser. Tureson gushed about his talented senior class.
“They’re phenomenal,” Tureson said. “Not only are they tight (collectively), but they grabbed everybody on the team and pulled them in. This is not a senior, junior, sophomore team. It is one team and they have made it that way, they’ve made it special this year.”
Indeed, it was a gratifying season for the Riverhawks, who broke through after getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 2017 and 2018. Ridgeline was only shut out once this fall.
“We’re satisfied with how we played (this season),” Smith said. “I’m just so proud of my teammates and I love them all so much. It was our goal to get here (to Rio Tinto) and we did it, and we won region, which was also one of our big goals, and so I’m just really proud of us all.”