Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS – The chase for positioning in Region 3 girls soccer got a little bit clearer Thursday as front-running Brighton took care of business on its home field against Copper Hills. The Bengals scored twice in the first half and then, after seeing their lead cut in half, pulled away down the stretch for a 4-1 victory.
The four Region 3 playoff teams are already known, but with this result, Brighton is set up for a head-to-head matchup against second-place Jordan in the season’s final contest that it appears will settle first and second place. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, are now tied on points with Bingham, though the Miners have two games left and Copper Hills has just one.
This match really felt like it was in the Bengals’ control pretty much from the outset, but Brighton provided plenty of chances for the Grizzlies to hang around. The Bengals controlled the possession during the better part of both halves as they won most of the free balls, while Copper Hills used transition chances to mount a few serious attacks on its offensive half.
Defensive lapses by Brighton and a number of dangerous corner kicks put the Grizzlies in scoring territory four or five times before intermission, but most of the action was at the other end, and there as a lot of pressure in front of the Copper Hills net. That led to the game’s first goal in the 11th minute, when freshman striker Kaitlyn Conley retrieved an attempted clearance from a Bengal corner kick, pushed the ball to space and then finished to the far post to put Brighton on top 1-0.
That narrow advantage remained intact until the 30th minute when Conley set the table for yet another tally. Her shot from deep was played temporarily away from the goal by the Grizzly keeper, but the rebound caromed towards Brighton’s Morgan Selander, who was tangled with a Copper Hills defender. The ball played off of that entanglement and into the net for a goal that was credited to Selander.
In the early stages of the second half, one of those Grizzly corner kicks took a bite out of the Brighton lead. The Grizzlies played the ball on the ground towards the top of the 18-yard box, where one player stepped over the pass to throw the defense off, leaving it for Dominique Estrada, who ripped it past Bengal goalkeeper Megan Jensen to narrow the margin to 2-1.
In the 60th minute, Brighton pushed the lead back to two goals on an indirect free kick after an obstruction call deep inside the Copper Hills penalty area.
Bri Sperry touched the ball to Taylor Kasteler, who got a shot on frame that was saved, but once again the ball stayed in play and there was a second chance. Conley was waiting at the back post to touch the ball into the goal.
Just before the end of the match, Sarah Fankhauser added one more score to the Bengal total for the 4-1 final.
Copper Hills (5-3-3 in Region 3, 7-4-3 overall) finishes its season next Thursday when West Jordan (2-8, 4-10) comes calling. A win keeps the Grizzlies in the running for the No. 3 seed from the league, but either way, they will be on the road when the playoffs open the following week, as either a No. 3 or No. 4 seed).
Brighton (9-1, 10-3-1) is at West Jordan Tuesday before finishing out its season on its home pitch against Jordan, currently two points behind the Bengals in the region standings.