NORTH LOGAN — It took a while for them to slam the door, but the Wolves made sure their first-ever home playoff match was a memorable one.
Green Canyon dented the scoreboard four times in a 12-minute stretch of the second half en route to a gratifying 5-0 victory over Crimson Cliffs in a round of 16 game in the 4A Girls Soccer Championships on Wednesday afternoon.
The fourth-seeded Wolves (12-2-2) advanced to the quarterfinals for the second time in program history and will host fifth-seeded Cedar Valley (12-5-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m. Green Canyon was ousted in the quarters two years ago, but this is a much more experienced side.
“It feels good, for sure,” GC head coach Sven Rasmussen said. “The girls have matured. They play a better game now that when we went there the last time. ... I think this is where we deserve to be. I feel like we’ve earned it. I feel like the girls played well today and I think that we’re not going to settle on just the quarters. We have it in our mind where we want to go, but we have to play that quarterfinal game and it’s going to be a challenging one.”
A pair of Green Canyon seniors left their mark on Wednesday’s match as Maggie Stephens recorded a brace, while Kylie Olsen scored once and assisted on another goal. Junior Kaizley Holbrook also had a brace for the hosts.
“I can’t believe I actually scored, first of all, but it means the world to me that I can actually score in the playoffs and make my team proud,” Stephens said. “And to have all of these students here, it was awesome and it was a really fun game.”
Stephens put the Wolves on the board in the 14th minute on a shot that just trickled over the mouth of the goal. Crimson Cliffs (3-12-0) was unable to clear a Green Canyon corner kick, and Stephens just got enough of a touch on the resulting loose ball to give the hosts a 1-0 advantage.
The Wolves had a few golden opportunities to pad their lead in the opening half, but Mustang goalkeeper Ellie Nielsen made a couple of outstanding reaction saves on shots by Ryley Thompson and Elizabeth Seeley, respectively.
Green Canyon did a better job of framing its shots in the second half, and the results could be seen. The Wolves put eight of their 10 shots after halftime on goal and finished with a 21-4 edge in total shots.
“We just talked about capitalizing on the last touches in the (attacking) third, because we had a lot of shots in the first half, but we just couldn’t finish,” Olsen said. “And so we just wanted to play more simple and be able to finish our shots, which we did.”
The Wolves doubled their lead three minutes into the second half on a sublime strike by Holbrook, whose curling right-footer from about 17 yards out tucked inside the upper 90 of the near post.
Green Canyon struck again one minute later when Olsen tracked down a Corey Thompson through ball and beat NIelsen one-v-one.
Stephens completed her brace in the 54th minute on a stellar left-footed shot that rocketed inside the upper 90 of the near post. The goal was set by Holbrook, who played a well-weighted ball into space for Stephens.
“It felt really good,” Stephens said. “I usually shoot with my right foot, but to see it curve beautifully into the goal was icing on the cake for me.”
Holbrook provided the exclamation point about one minute later with a one-time finish on a pass to feet from Olsen.
Stephens almost had a hat trick for the hosts, but Nielsen parried one of her second-half strikes over the crossbar.
This was Green Canyon’s second win over Crimson Cliffs this season as the Wolves prevailed 2-0 on the road back in August. Saturday’s showdown against Cedar Valley, which eliminated Logan in overtime in the round of 16, should provide a much bigger challenge.
Brooke Watkins only had to make one save en route to her 11th shutout of the year. Green Canyon’s defense has been superb all season long, and the Wolves have been big strides offensively in 2019. Simply put, the Wolves are a lot more dynamic in the attack than they were a year ago, when they didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
“It honestly feels so great,” Olsen said. “We’ve worked so hard this year. I feel like it’s so different than it was last year. We have mostly the same players, but I feel like everyone was more ready coming into the season than we were last year.”