MILLVILLE — Having standout performers like current Division I players Abbie Kotter, London Miller, Oakley Rasmussen and Tenzi Knowles certainly helped propel Ridgeline’s girls soccer program to back-to-back appearances in the 4A state championship match.
The Riverhawks are lacking a bit of star power this season, head coach Mark Tureson has asserted on a couple of occasions, but their is no shortage of depth, and it paid off in a big way Tuesday night. Sophomore Macie Brown came off the bench to score a golden goal with less than one minute remaining in the first overtime period as Ridgeline earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Region 11 rival Sky View.
“We’ve got a group that goes out first and then we’ve got a group that goes out second, and we don’t drop, our level doesn’t drop,” Tureson said. “And that’s the gift that it is, is we don’t drop in our level, we continue to keep that pressure on. ... Yeah, a deep bench, it’s a blessing and a curse. You know, to get some great players enough time on the field, that’s the hard part, but when they get on the field, boy they sure do perform, and it’s great to see.”
Brown provided the heroics in the 90th minute when she dribbled the ball past a defender and inside the 6-yard box, and fired off a near-post shot Sky View goalkeeper Jada Westover was able to deflect, but it had more than enough power to sneak into the goal.
“It just feels like you finally pull your weight on the team, kind of,” Brown said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Both teams had golden opportunities to slam the door in overtime. Ridgeline freshman Emily Skinner served up an inviting cross that teammate Ellie Kotter one-timed over the crossbar less than 30 seconds into OT. A couple of minutes later, Sky View’s Mia Morrison worked hard to win the ball, got to the end line and found Macy Hellstern at the far post, but Hellstern’s header caromed off the football crossbar.
Hellstern allowed the Bobcats (6-3, 0-2) to get to overtime as she collected a pass from Macy Sickler in the 73rd minute and carved up just enough space to unleash a lovely strike from distance inside the upper 90 of the near post. Sky View’s leading scorer on the season had missed the previous two matches with an injury.
“It’s a big difference (with her on the field),” SV head coach Jillian Carver said of Hellstern. “She has the motivation that the team needs to put the ball in the back of the net, and she knows how to do it. And she’s very, very good.”
It appeared the short-handed Bobcats — they were missing two of their best players in Amalia Fonua and Laney Gibbons — had equalized earlier in the second half as Sickler whipped in a dangerous free kick to the back post and it was headed in, but the offside flag was up. Meanwhile, a foul wiped away a Ridgeline goal at the beginning of the half.
The Riverhawks took a 1-0 lead into halftime courtesy of a heads-up play by Adeline Fiefia, who perfectly timed her run, stole the ball and calmly finished her breakaway in the 31st minute. Ridgeline (4-4, 2-0) had a few more prime chances to tuck away goals in the opening half, and Westover came up huge with a diving reaction save on a well-taken shot by Fiefia late in the half. Westover — “she played very well,” Carver said — crawled several feet to smother the ball and prevent the Riverhawks from having a rebound opportunity.
“You can play excellent soccer and not put the ball in the net, and it’s all for naught, right? So yeah, if we learn to bury the chances we get and just be ruthless that way, then those opportunities mean something,” said Tureson, who was very pleased with how his side defended. “But if we miss them or we keep giving those away, then those are the things that come back later. If you’re up 2-0, it’s a different game, but, man, give Sky View credit. They played a phenomenal second half.”
Sky View’s best chance to dent the scoreboard before halftime took place in the 14th minute when Kortnee Lamb deftly cut the ball inside and slotted a shot that missed the far post by inches. Like Tureson said, though, the Bobcats played their best soccer in the second half.
“We had some girls really step up,” Carver said. “I feel like we really adapted to the game well in the second half. We learned to transition faster, we learned to pass the ball faster, we learned to recognize their transition faster and shut it down a little bit better. So yeah, we had a lot of girls step up, so that was good to see.”
Like Westover, Ridgeline counterpart Alivia Brenchley looked sharp in goal and commanded her box very well for the hosts, who got a strong performance from relentless midfielder Addie Zollinger.
OTHER REGION MATCHES
Addyson Sofonia scored twice in the final 10 minutes to propel Mountain Crest to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over visiting Green Canyon, while Logan found the back of the net four times in the second half in its 5-2 triumph over Bear River at Crimson Field.
The Wolves (3-5, 1-1) took a 1-0 lead over the Mustangs (7-1, 2-0) 10 minutes into the second half on a shot by Emma DeBerard. Austin Miller was credited with an assist on the play.
Sofonia then proceeded to score twice in heavy traffic late in the match to allow Mountain Crest to join Ridgeline atop the region standings. The Mustangs have netted multiple goals in each of their eight games this season.
“As a coach, a comeback win is so fun to see,” MC head coach Amber Hyatt said. “When we were down by one, the girls didn’t give up. They kept working hard, played together and played for each other. This team has great chemistry and it’s great to see their effort being rewarded with another great win.”
Meanwhile, Logan (3-5, 1-1) got a pair of goals and assists from Mia Lopez — her third brace of the season — plus goals from fellow freshmen Alana Anderson and Onyx Kennington, and pulled away from Bear River (2-6, 0-2). Veteran Emma Browning also found the back of the net for the Grizzlies, who also got assists from Delilah Orozco and keeper Milly Garren. Kennington’s goal was what Logan head coach Natalie Norris called a “beautiful header” off a Lopez corner kick.
The Bears netted the first goal of the match and only trailed 3-2 midway through the second half.
“I’m really proud of how we came out for the second half tonight,” Norris said. “We were able to reach another level that I needed to see. It was super fun to have so many of my freshmen score tonight. They’ve been working hard for it. Bear River played us really well and, as usual, gave us a great game without giving up.”