HYRUM — With a congratulatory “well done,” Ridgeline head coach Mark Tureson raised the Region 11 girls soccer trophy above his head before passing it on to the celebrating Riverhawk athletes who earned the hardware with their play on the field.
Moment’s prior, Ridgeline (12-3-1, 8-1-1) scored a double-overtime golden goal to seal the region title with a 2-1 road win over Mountain Crest (4-10-2, 3-6-1). Fittingly, the winner came off the foot of senior forward and captain London Miller.
Tureson’s focus is largely on the playoffs, and he’s repeatedly said the ultimate goal is a state title. But a region title was still a goal for him and his team. Given the toughness of the competition, it’s a feat worthy of note.
“I’m privileged for our girls to take region in a region that is this tough with this many quality teams,” Tureson said.
Going into the game, Ridgeline needed a win or a loss by Green Canyon to seal the deal at the death of the regular season. The Wolves ended up losing, but the Riverhawks didn’t plan on that happening and approached their matchup with MC with that mindset.
“We had to win going into the night,” Tureson said. “If we tied or lost it would have been up to somebody else.”
“We play every game like it’s a championship game,” RHS junior forward Halle Van Yperen said. “So, we came out here just planning to play how we play.”
The Mustangs gave the eventual region champs a considerable run for its money for the duration of regulation and nearly 17 minutes of overtime. Possession largely belonged to the home team with dominant midfield play. Tureson and Van Yperen both noted a formation shift from Mountain Crest, loading the midfield third with players to win 50-50 balls and giving players plenty of passing options in buildup. That allowed the Mustangs to outshoot the Riverhawks 17-11 in regulation and 22-16 for the whole of the game.
Despite the domination of possession, it was Ridgeline that struck first. In the 44th minute, Van Yperen made a run down the right side, took a through ball from Tenzi Knowles and buried her shot into the left side netting to draw first blood. It quickly turned the tide of a game previously controlled by MC.
“That goal meant a ton,” Van Yperen said. “The whole time we were pushing for a goal even though they had more time of possession.”
Van Yperen's goal nearly wound up being the game-winner, no overtime necessary. But in the final minute of regulation, as in 33 seconds left, Mountain Crest got a breakthrough after 16 failed attempts at goal. Keiera Nielson played in one of MC's seven corner kicks and the ball went on a chaotic journey from the feet of attackers, to defenders and even off the gloves of RHS keeper Aspen Wallin. In the desperate scrum, MC forward Kadison Kendrick kicked the ball away from the grasp of Wallin and it trickled across the goal line.
Kendrick's goal was as heroic as it was lucky, timely and desperate. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, it also turned out to be futile as they lost their fifth game in their last seven outings. But the overall stellar play put a rueful smile on the face of head coach Amber Hyatt.
"Yea, it stings a little bit," she said of the loss. "I'm proud of my girls and how they played tonight. I can't be upset about that."
For much of the season, Hyatt lamented the inability to string two halves together — a flaw that has been a direct cause of many of the Mustangs' losses. On Tuesday, MC played two strong halves and almost two overtimes, going toe to toe with the top team in Region 11 despite being second-to-last in the standings.
"I told my team after the game, if we can play a game like this, that's what I wanted to see before the playoffs," Hyatt said. "If we can go into the playoffs playing like we did tonight, the playoffs will go really well for us."
Ridgeline didn't leave the game without learning something about itself as a team. For the second straight game, the Riverhawks pulled off a positive result in a closely combated game — a 1-1 draw with Green Canyon and Tuesday's victory over MC. Ridgeline’s first three games that finished with a one-goal difference each ended in defeat.
“We’ve learned from every time we’ve gone into overtime or deep into a game,” Tureson said. “We’ve learned how to elevate our game late in the game."
Van Yperen even said she preferred having the regular season finale be a hard-fought game.
“Honestly, it meant more to have this big of a game, going into double overtime, rather than just winning 3-0,” she said. “It feels better this way.”
Ridgeline will receive a first-round bye in the new playoff format, which is based on a computer-generated RPI with all teams making the postseason. Opponents will be determined when the final RPI standings is released by the UHSAA.
GRIZZLIES 1, WOLVES 0
Green Canyon (11-2-2, 6-2-2) had an outside chance at catching Ridgeline for the Region 11 crown, but that went out the window when the Wolves failed to defeat the opponent in front of them: Logan. The Grizzlies (7-9-0, 6-4-0) got its lone goal in the 63rd from junior forward Alec Kennington.
Winning meant Logan closed the season on a three-game win streak after not winning back-to-back games for the entire season up until last week. It also puts the Grizzlies in third place in Region 11 after spending a not insignificant time toward the bottom of the table.
The Wolves finished the regular season in second place, but will surely receive a first-round bye. Logan may also get a bye thanks to its strong finish to the season.
BOBCATS 4, BEARS 0
Sky View (8-6-2, 4-4-2) stumbled toward the end of the season with Tuesday's win over last-place Bear River (1-14-0, 0-10-0) being the team's only win since Sept. 17. Kylie Rogers recorded a brace for the Bobcats, scoring the first two goals of the game. Rogers' first came in the first half on an assist from Anika McCulloch, and the second in the latter half off a pass from Addison Poulsen.
Amalia Fonua and Macy Hellstern each scored in the second half, with Kortnee Lamb and Samantha Hall each getting assists with those two goals.
Both the Bobcats and Bears will appear in the playoffs in the new system.