MILLVILLE — Though a bit rusty at times, Ridgeline entertained zero notions of a playoff upset, routing Dixie 6-1 at home for the program’s first-ever playoff victory.
Earning a playoff win isn’t the only first for the Riverhawks (13-3-1), who claimed a region title for the first time in the program’s short, four-year history. Head coach Mark Tureson noted the milestone with a mind toward future playoff wins.
“It’s important,” Tureson said, “but it’s the next step we’re looking for. We’re always going to be looking for that next one.”
Ridgeline sat out the first week of the 4A Girls Soccer Championships being the No. 2 seed among 21 4A teams. During that time off it appeared the Riverhawks accumulated some rust as their first-half form just wasn’t up to par.
They did score two first-half goals against the Flyers (3-11-1), building as much of a margin for error as they would need, but it wasn’t the same quality Ridgeline soccer fans had seen throughout the regular season.
“We’ve been working really hard through the week, but I think we were all kind of tired,” senior forward Abbie Kotter said. “We didn’t come out as good as we could have.”
“We had lost the urgency,” Tureson said. “We’ve got to play with urgency if we’re going to do well.”
Case in point, Ridgeline had two gilded chances in the first half the players bungled away. Halle Van Yperen had roughly 90 percent of the net open to her on a shot just outside the 6-yard box, but put the ball wide left. Miller, despite her impressive night, had an even worse blunder later in the half. Ridgeline pulled off a two-versus-goalkeeper counter attack with Miller running point on the breakaway. With the option to pass or take advantage of the exposed keeper herself, Miller chunked the ball with her left foot and it skipped away, very wide of the frame and the opposite direction of Van Yperen, the other attacker in the play.
All of that rust came off in the second half, however. Ridgeline opened the latter 40 minutes by scoring four times in an 11-minute span. It was quintessential Riverhawk style of play with stellar and speedy counter attacks.
“When they connect, we can get in behind and get in on goal,” Tureson said. “That’s what we’re looking to do. When they did what we asked them to, they got the results.”
Miller especially shined as she put home two of the goals herself in a span of less than 90 seconds. That completed a hat trick for her by the 45th minute and she’d add another for her second four-goal game of the season and fifth hat trick.
“I missed a few opportunities right in from of the goal (in the first half),” Miller said, “so going into the second half I just wanted to focus on putting the ball in the back of the net.”
Sara Snyder and Kotter notched the other two goals of the game for Ridgeline. Snyder’s came in the first half a few minutes after Miller opened the team’s scoring account in the eighth minute. Kotter, who also had an assist and a goal called back for being offside, earned her goal in the 49th minute on a rocket she sent from the right corner of the box to just inside the far post.
Kotter also had an assist and put all three of her shots on frame. Miller put six of her seven total shots on goal and also had an assist.
Ridgeline’s next opponent will be a familiar face: Sky View. The Bobcats downed Pine View 5-0 to earn the right top play the Riverhawks for a third time this season. RHS dominated the in-season matchups, outscoring SV 10-1 in the two games. But the Riverhawks absolutely respect the threat of the Bobcats.
“It’s really nerve-wracking,” Kotter said. “They’re really good. They gave us a run for our money, especially in the first game. So, we’re going to have to come out really hard and want it really bad.”
The matchup with Sky View will be similar in many ways to Ridgeline’s pairing against Dixie. On paper, the Riverhawks are simply better in every way. The Flyers entered the postseason will a grand total of two wins, but pulled off a first-round win. Tureson wisely noted how things can turn when teams overlook inferior opponents.
“If you don’t show up to play, any team can beat you,” he said.
TIGERS 4, MUSTANGS 1
Mountain Crest (5-11-2) put up a bit of a fight, but were ultimately no match for the top seed in the tournament, the Ogden Tigers (15-2-0). Ellie Parker scored in the first half for the Mustangs but the Tigers put home three goals of their own for a 3-1 lead at the break. Ogden added another in the second half to fully put the game away.
The Mustangs didn’t quite live up to last season where they made an appearance in the semifinals and were second in Region 12, but head coach Amber Hyatt praised her team for working hard during the season and against a really good Ogden side.
“Today’s game didn’t go our way, but I hope they’re proud of their season overall,” Hyatt said. “Ultimately, I’m proud of my girls and the hard work they put into every game this season. I’m proud of our seniors and their leadership they had for the team this year.”
AVIATORS 3, GRIZZLIES 2 (OT)
“Sometimes soccer just doesn’t go your way.”
Such were the words of Logan head coach Natalie Norris after her team’s road overtime loss. It didn’t just describe a game where the Grizzlies (8-10-0) rallied from down 3-1 to force overtime, just to concede five minutes into the extra time, but also the entire year.
The soccer gods seemed content to put every stumbling block in the book in front of the defending region champions. By the end, the Grizzlies still stood toe-to-toe with the five seeded Cedar Valley (12-5-0) squad.
“To say I’m proud of them is an understatement,” Norris said. “We’ve been through every up and down you could imagine and still came out fighting hard and showing heart. We fought our way back into this game and showed the most heart I’ve ever seen. They literally gave me everything they had and played really well today.”
Whitney Lopez shone bright in what became her final prep soccer game. She scored the two goals in the second half that rallied her squad, the latter an unassisted goal in the 68th minute. Bizzy Arevalo, the leading scorer for the Grizzlies, didn’t find the back of the net, but did have two assists, one on Lopez’s first goal and one to Ashley Coppin, who scored Logan’s first goal of the game.
INDIANS 3, WOLVERINES 2
Third-seeded Preston rallied from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 during the course of its win over fifth-seeded Wood River (9-7-4) in the third-place match of the 4A District 4-5 Tournament. The first rally came quick as Alexis Harris scored for the Indians (12-5-2) in the 15th minute after a 10th-minute goal by the Wolverines.
The second rally took much longer. Wood River edged forward again with a goal in the 20th minute, but Preston didn’t strike again until standout center back Kylie Larsen slotted a free kick into the back net. Larsen didn’t wait for a Wolverines’ response and scored again six minutes later off a throw-in from Quincy Hyde. It was Hyde’s second assist of the match.
“Really proud of the way the girls battled and mentally just stayed in it and focused,” Preston head coach Brandon Lyon. “They played with a great intensity in the second half, but stayed focused and not panicked.”
The Indians earned a spot in the playoffs, but it will be a play-in game against the third-place team from the Boise district Saturday at Twin Falls High School.