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Maeser boys soccer takes cerebral approach to success in state tournament

By Darnell Dickson - | May 4, 2022

Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald

Members of the Maeser Prep boys soccer team celebrate a goal against Diamond Ranch in a 2A boys soccer second round tournament match in Orem on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

The Maeser Prep boys soccer team has discovered an special old-school ingredient: Books.

Not downloaded-to-your-device books, or even audio books. No, the Lions read and discuss actual made-from-paper books to prepare mentally for each game.

So far, the novel approach is working.

Maeser is the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A tournament and opened play with a 6-0 second round victory against Diamond Ranch on Wednesday, dominating possession and blowing open the game with an offensive showcase in the second half.

“We’ve been working a lot on our possession,” Maeser Prep coach Dustin Simmons said. “Today was probably the best possession game we’ve played. We’ve got a lot of speed and a lot of players who can finish. If we can possess the ball, that’s going to put us over the top.”

Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald

Maeser Prep's Tristan Brockbank (7) challenges a Diamond Ranch player for the ball during a 2A boys soccer second round state tournament match in Orem on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

The Lions (14-1-0) took a 1-0 lead at halftime but overwhelmed Diamond Ranch in the second half with a barrage of offense, displaying deft passing and creating numerous scoring opportunities.

“We’re able to stay pretty composed under pressure,” said sophomore Aidan Simmons, the coach’s son. “Everyone on the team is good enough that we’re comfortable with them taking shots. We’re not afraid of anything and we’re willing to take the shots.”

The younger Simmons said his father chooses the books that they read in the book club, with mental discipline as the main topic.

“We all read the book during the week and then for an hour on Fridays before practice we talk about it,” Aidan Simmons said. “We discuss things from the book and it helps us to be better players. Last year, we read “The Fearless Mind” (by Craig Manning) and this year we’re reading “Playing in the Box” (by Pete Temple). Our mental preparation has been key this season.”

That mental edge likely helped the Lions overcome a bit of frustration in the first half, where they dominated the run of play but found the back of the net only once. Tim Hadfield headed Caleb Johnson’s corner kick past the Diamond Ranch goalkeeper with about ten minutes to play in the first half for a 1-0 Lions lead.

Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald

Maeser Prep's Aidan Simmons handles a throw-in during a Class 2A boys soccer second round state tournament match against Diamond Ranch on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

“Our confidence was good but were just a little bit off,” Aidan Simmons said. “We had the chances and we were taking the shots. They just weren’t falling in the first half. But in the second half, as soon as we got the first one we started taking over.”

Simmons sent a crossing pass early in the second half to Alexander Cannon for a wide open look and a 2-0 advantage. Moments later, Cannon took advantage of a defensive lapse by Diamond Ranch to slot home another goal for a 3-0 lead. Johnson triggered the next three Maeser Prep goals, assisting on scores by Danny Chavez and Aidan Simmons, then closing out the scoring by cleaning up a deflection for a goal and the 6-0 lead. Johnson finished with a goal and four assists.

The Lions advance to the state quarterfinals for the third time in program history and will host No. 9 Rowland Hall on Saturday.

Maeser Prep is looking for its first-ever berth in the state semifinals.

“It’s been a historic season for us,” Coach Dustin Simmons said. “It’s been such an awesome opportunity and we want to see if we can keep playing. This is the best record we’ve ever had. I’ve been here 12 years and we tend to have guys that work really hard. We don’t always have a lot of skill players but we do now. Things are coming together. Pretty much all of our offensive scoring records have been broken this year.

Darnell Dickson/Daily Herald

Maeser Prep's Jack Stevenson (16) and Alex Cannon come off the field after the Lions defeated Diamond Ranch 6-0 in the second round of the Class 2A boys soccer tournament in Orem on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

“It’s fun for the boys to build some momentum. Our record, and having the number one seed, those are just little things. At the end of the day winning championships, that’s the most important thing if we can do that.”

Aidan Simmons remembers when he was in seventh grade the Lions varsity lost in overtime in the quarterfinals.

“Getting to the semifinals would mean so much,” he said. “I think to be able to be on team that can get past that quarterfinal barrier, that would be amazing. I think if we get past that, we can go all the way.”

A Maeser Prep student runs with the school flag after the Lions scored a goal against Diamond Ranch in a Class 2A boys soccer second round state tournament match in Orem on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

Maeser Prep's Aidan Simmons (right) kicks the ball past a Diamond Ranch defender during a Class 2A boys soccer second round state tournament match in Orem on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

Maeser Prep's Caleb Johnson (right) challenges the Diamond Ranch goalkeeper during a Class 2A boys soccer second round state tournament match in Orem on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

Maeser Prep boys soccer coach Dustin Simmons gives instructions to his players before the start of a Class 2A second round state tournament match against Diamond Ranch in Orem on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

Maeser Prep players gather together just before the start of a Class 2A boys second round state soccer match against Diamond Ranch in Orem on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

Maeser Prep boys soccer fans watch a second round state tournament match with Diamond Ranch in Orem on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

Maeser Prep's Aidan Simmons takes a free kick during a Class 2A second round tournament match against Diamond Ranch in Orem on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

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