MILLVILLE — It certainly looked like Saturday’s intense intra-valley showdown was going to be decided in a penalty kick shootout, but Ridgeline’s Marley Guevara had other ideas.
Guevara scored the golden goal with approximately 20 seconds remaining in double overtime, propelling the Riverhawks to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Sky View in the quarterfinals of the 4A Girls Soccer Championships on a wet, windy and chilly Saturday afternoon.
It was the junior’s second goal of the match, and it allowed second-seeded Ridgeline to advance to the 4A semifinals for the second time in the program’s four-year history.
“I mean, it’s kind of unreal,” Guevara said. “I can’t really take it all in right now, I guess, but it feels good and it means so much.”
Guevara, who has played nearly every position on the pitch this fall, collected a pass from London Miller and snuck her shot just inside the near post. Sky View goalkeeper Katie Finlinson got a big piece of the shot, but not quite enough to keep it out of the back of the net.
“I’ll be honest with you, I was writing five names down (for the impending shootout), then I looked up and Marley hit that shot,” Ridgeline head coach Mark Tureson said. “First off, I’ve got to say Sky View played a phenomenal game. I wouldn’t expect anything less from (head coach) Sharron (Wood) and from those girls. They played phenomenal, but our girls, we’ve been in overtime games before, we’ve trained in it, we’re used to it and (our girls) elevated their game. And in the end, we got the lucky break, but a heartbreaker for the goalie. That’s a heartbreaking way to (concede a golden goal), but it was just a phenomenal game.”
Indeed, it was an agonizing ending for the seventh-seeded Bobcats, who gamely fought their way back from a 2-0 second-half deficit. Finlinson made a couple of really big saves — a diving stop to her right on a shot by London Miller, and she denied Samantha Carlston on a breakaway — to help keep the visitors in the match.
“Katie will feel like ... ‘it’s my fault and all of that,’ and right now that’s what she’s feeling, but we’re not going to let her think that,” Wood said. “That was not the case. It takes a team to win and it takes a team to lose, and (the ball) went through 10 players before it ever got to her. ... But she played a great game. I was so impressed with her, with her attitude and how she’s been positive all week.”
Finlinson and the Bobcats (9-7-2) certainly gave the Riverhawks (14-3-1) all they could handle after falling to Ridgeline twice in convincing fashion (3-0 and 7-1) during the regular season. In fact, it was Sky View that dictated play for much of the first half. If it wasn’t for a clutch save on the mouth of the goal by Riverhawk outside back Sara Snyder, the Bobcats would have dented the scoreboard first.
Instead, it was the Riverhawks who took a 1-0 lead on a goal against the run of play. Miller used a cheeky move to get to the end line and what appeared to be a cross turned into a stunning finish just inside the upper 90 of the back post.
The Riverhawks gained some momentum during the final 10 or 15 minutes of the opening half, and Abbie Kotter was especially dangerous in the attack for the hosts. Ridgeline then proceeded to come out strong to start the second half. Guevara, who only had two goals this season heading into the game, settled a pass from Olivia Smith and unleashed an unsavable right-footed rocket inside the side netting of the far post, giving the Riverhawks a 2-nil advantage in the 47th minute.
Indeed, the season was seemingly slipping away for the Bobcats, but they were ultimately undaunted. Kylie Rogers and company refused to fold.
Standout freshman Amalia Fonua — who played particularly well in the first half — found Rogers, who narrowly beat Ridgeline keeper Aspen Wallin to pare the Sky View deficit to 2-1 in the 54th minute. Rogers struck again about 13 minutes later when she dribbled into the 18-yard box, cut the ball to her left foot and buried a shot to the far post.
It was the senior’s third brace in as many matches for the Bobcats, who converted on their first two shots of the second half. Madison Daniels saved a goal in the first half to help Sky View to stay within striking distance of Ridgeline.
“I’m super proud of these girls,” Wood said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them. ... They played a great game and they just really came together as a team. I just honestly don’t know what else to say except I am just so proud of the way they played today.”
The Region 11 champions could have panicked after relinquishing a two-goal lead, but to the delight of Tureson they did not.
“Our girls are used to playing at a high competition level and that’s going to carry us forward,” he said. “Teams like Sky View, like Green Canyon, like Logan, they’re trained us, we’ve trained each other for this postseason run. So, we didn’t expect this game to be any different than it was, but I think our girls have excelled under the pressure situations.”
Up next for Ridgeline is a semifinal showdown against Region 9 co-champion Desert Hills, which advanced with a 2-0 triumph over Uintah. The sixth-seeded Thunder (15-2-1) and Riverhawks will square off Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Jordan High School.
Earning the right to compete in a state semifinal match is especially gratifying for a Ridgeline side that was bounced in the first round the previous two seasons.
“It means a lot to us,” Guevara said. “We just decided that we’re going to keep going forward and forward, keep evolving our play. But yeah, it means a lot to us. We’ve been waiting for this for a while.”