The last time the Bear River High girls’ soccer team won a region match, the seniors on this year’s squad weren’t even in high school yet.
The date was Sept. 29, 2016 when the Lady Bears beat Ben Lomond 2-0 behind goals from Whitney Shaw and Kaysie Winward. What followed was nearly five years of frustration populated by a mix of close calls and blowout losses, all adding up to 45 consecutive defeats in region play.
The Lady Bears ended that unenviable streak last Thursday in gritty fashion, breaking a scoreless tie in the second half and holding on for a 1-0 victory over visiting Sky View. Kylie Nelson scored after gathering a cross from Naomi Tomlinson with about 15 minutes to go, and senior goalkeeper Lyza Pebley made a couple of critical stops down the stretch to preserve the shutout.
“We were ready for this one,” Pebley said. “We got ahead and we stayed ahead. We didn’t just go back to playing defense.”
When the final whistle blew, the Bear River side erupted in jubilation as the players mobbed each other on the field in a scene that could have been mistaken for a state championship celebration.
“Enjoy this one,” was the simple message from Head Coach Jesse Esquivel as the team gathered on the sideline for its traditional postgame cheer for the opponent. Afterward, Esquivel praised his side for its tenacity, something he said has been lacking in some previous matches that ended in defeat.
“We just kept fighting the whole game. Didn’t let up at all,” he said. “We kept attacking and kept (Sky View) on their heels.”
Instead of playing the role of gracious loser, the Bears had finally come out on top, and suddenly find themselves relevant in the Region 11 picture for the first time in years. Heading into this week, Bear River sat at 1-2 in region play, tied with Green Canyon and Logan for third place.
This week, the Bears traveled to region-leading Mountain Crest on Tuesday and will host the Grizzlies on Thursday. BRHS officials were planning on holding the match against Logan on the newly installed artificial grass at Bear Field, which would make it the first official athletic contest on the new turf.
Last Thursday was just one win, and much work is ahead if the Bears are to remain in the Region 11 hunt. But for a team that has been down so long, it was a crucial step toward building confidence and momentum for the stretch run.
“This is the start for us to say ‘hey, we can compete’,” Esquivel said. “We’re gonna keep doing it through the rest of region, and just have fun.”