Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
DRAPER – It seemed that Alta had the right formula to have a chance to knock the Lone Peak High girls soccer team from its unbeaten status as the two met at Juan Diego Catholic High School Tuesday in a 5A state semifinal. The Hawks have an outstanding goalkeeper and a strong defense and the one thing you always know about Lone Peak is that you won’t beat the Knights in a shootout.
Lone Peak has now played 19 games this season, and has yielded just five goals. This game revealed the difficulty of toppling this team. The Knights move the ball with seemingly little effort, and the build-up as they move the ball into scoring territory is so smooth that you know they will eventually finish off one chance, and that is often enough to beat you.
The lone goal of the match with Alta came in the 26th minute, as Lone Peak moved the ball through the midfield, to Jessica Smith running the wing. The outside midfielder carried it to the goal line and then dropped a perfect ball back across the mouth of the goal, where Natalie Lewis was in perfect position to touch the ball home.
That goal, and their outstanding defense throughout the contest was all the Knights needed to record their 15th shutout of the year with a 1-0 victory over the Region 3 co-champions.
There was a lot of movement both directions, but it was Lone Peak that forced most of the action with that passing game and player movement. If not for the play of Hawk goalkeeper Isabel Jones, the game could have gotten out of hand very early.
In the 12th minute, Smith has an early chance to put the Knights on top as she received a great feed in a position to go one-on-one with Jones, but the keeper won the battle. Two minutes later, it was Jones again, saving a Cameron Tucker shot that came from a clean look created by a Lewis pass.
That save led to the best scoring chance Alta had all day long. As the Hawks pushed back on a counterattack, Sadie Mertlich sent a cross into the center of the field to Amber Tripp that gave the junior forward a point-blank shot at the Lone Peak goal. Tripp’s shot was a rocket right at Lone Peak goalkeeper Cassidy Smith, who handled it to keep the game scoreless to that point.
After that, Alta had a few opportunities in the scoring area, mostly off of transition started in the back, but the Hawks were unable to pierce Leesa Stowe and the powerful back line of the Knights.
For all of its ability to work the ball through the midfield and get it deep into the Alta end of the pitch, Lone Peak could not find a way to get the insurance goal that would allow it to breathe more easily. Instead, defender Allie Millerberg and Jones kept the Hawks in position all the way, but in the end, as they had done 14 times previously this season, the Knights finished the game with an opponent’s side of the scoreboard carrying the same “0” with which it started the game.
The Knights have one more task ahead in their quest for an unbeaten season, and even more importantly for them, a state title. They put their 19-0 mark up against a balanced and talented Davis (16-3) at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium.