There will be a new 4A state champion in girls soccer this season.
Additionally, for the first time in three years, Ridgeline will not be playing at Rio Tinto Stadium in the finals, although the defending champions sure came close to extending their streak.
Mountain Crest persevered through some nervy moments late in the second half and during both overtime periods, and then outlasted Ridgeline in a shootout that went three extra rounds during the second semifinal match on Thursday afternoon at Juan Diego High School. After 100 minutes of scoreless action, the Mustangs prevailed from the penalty spot by a 6-5 count.
Second-seeded Mountain Crest (16-2) will now square off against top-seeded Crimson Cliffs (17-2) for all the marbles Friday at 5 p.m. at Real Salt Lake's pitch. Crimson Cliffs needed a shootout to dispatch of No. 4 Sky View in the first semifinal showdown.
"Yeah, I'm so proud of my team," MC head coach Amber Hyatt said. "We've worked so hard all season and I'm just happy for them that they get to see the success and have that experience of playing in a championship game. They have great team chemistry, they all love each other, so I'm just glad that their hard work has paid off and they get that opportunity to play in that championship game."
The second of Mountain Crest's two losses this season was in a shootout. The Mustangs only converted on 1 of 5 penalty kicks three weeks ago against Sky View, but they much more clinical this time around. Brittney Egbert, Sadie Coggins, Andie Andrus, Brynleigh Ritchie, Hadli Barrera and Lexie Coggins all buried their shots from the penalty spot.
Lexie Coggins' unsavable effort propelled the Mustangs into their first state championship match in recent memory.
"Yeah, since that Sky View game we've practiced them over and over again, and I told them before we went into (today's shootout) that I was confident that they were going to make their shots, just take a deep breath and do what we've been doing in practice," Hyatt said. "And they did exactly that. It was fun to see."
Reese Heninger, Halle Smith, Emilee Skinner, Saige Wiser and Carly Eubanks all put away well-taken penalties for the the third-seeded Riverhawks (10-8). Mountain Crest goalkeeper Dakota Andersen made three saves during the shootout, while Ridgeline counterpart Lilly Loyet turned aside one.
This was the first time this season one of Ridgeline's matches have been decided in a shootout, plus it was the program's first shootout since its 2020 season opener.
"We practice them all the time, but it's not the same as doing it in a game," RHS head coach Mark Tureson said.
Simply put, it was a heartbreaker for the Riverhawks, who became the first team this season to shut out the Mustangs. In fact, Mountain Crest scored at least twice in each of its first 17 matches.
"We feel great about the effort of stringing two halves together, plus two overtimes together on the front foot this time, as opposed to the last two times we played them (MC)," Tureson said. "And when it gets down to those fine margins of getting a toe on (a good scoring chance) or not, you go to PKs and it's anybody's game. And this time we didn't come out on top, so it gives us something to work on for next year."
Thursday's match was a far cry from the two between the two rivals during the 2021 campaign. Mountain Crest prevailed by scorelines of 3-0 and 5-2 during the regular season, and netted all but two of those goals during the second halves of those games.
"When you play any team three times is always difficult, especially when it's our rival," Hyatt said. "I knew before we went in it was going to be as much a physical game as a mental game, which always makes things more difficult all around."
The third Mountain Crest-Ridgeline showdown was action packed and both sides played hard, but legitimate scoring chances --- or even half chances, for that matter --- were few and far between as much of the match was contested in the middle third of the field. Case in point: There was only one shot on goal in the opening half --- taken by MC's Amelia Zilles --- and five in the second, and all but one of those shots were taken well outside the 18-yard box.
Mountain Crest's Sadie Coggins and Ridgeline's Skinner did have time and space inside the 18 during the final 10 minutes of regulation, but Coggins slotted her shot right to Loyet, and Skinner misfired wide right. Tureson was frustrated his team wasn't awarded a penalty kick when Adeline Fiefia went down in the box with about three minutes remaining.
Skinner forced Andersen into a pretty difficult diving save during the first overtime, and Andersen came through with another big save a couple of minutes later. The Riverhawks had a golden opportunity to bury a golden goal in the second OT session when Andersen punched a long-distance effort by Caitlyn Parry straight up in the air, but a rebound header from point-blank range sailed over the crossbar.
"Well, we didn't really make a lot of adjustments per say, it was just an emphasis on our girls finding each other's feet, instead of leading it (into space) and having them run," Tureson said of his side's stronger attacking mentality as the match progressed. "We had to find each other and they did, they started doing that much better. ... (The Mustangs) were dropping back more and we just told (our players) to take the space, and they did. But again, we had opportunities where we took shots and we had girls open in the middle, and a couple opportunities where we passed it and probably should have cranked the shot. And it really comes down to decision making and, like I said, I don't think we made mistakes today, other than just not getting that final touch into the back of the net. But I'm completely proud of how the girls played from box to box, completely proud."
Both backlines were outstanding Thursday. Mountain Crest's back four of Rhauli Barrera, Bentli Barrera, Egbert and Summer Sofonia paved the way for the team's 10th shutout of the season. Richie was also rock solid defensively from her holding midfielder role.
"Yeah, our defense played amazing today," Hyatt said. "They always do. They always step it up and do what needs to be done. ... (Those players) were definitely key to our success today. They did great."
Likewise, Ridgeline's center back tandem of Eubanks and Syd Zollinger, coupled with the outside back rotation of Kayt Ward, Reese Heninger and Wiser put together a phenomenal performance. It was the Riverhawks' ninth clean sheet of the season.
"I just think the way that the girls completely managed a very high-potent offense and did it very well, that's a big credit to our team actually," Tureson said. "I mean, it starts from the back to the front, but it was a credit to our team."
"Their backline did a really good job of winning 50-50 balls and sending them back the other way," Hyatt said. "In the past we've been able to get some through balls and I think they were just able to figure us out a little bit, and they played a little bit tighter inside and we weren't able to get the through balls. We also weren't able to get the over the top balls. You know, their defense was winning a lot of those opportunities, so that's what made it difficult today and why we weren't able, I think, to get the chances that we have in other games."