Lehi girls soccer beats Cedar Valley, advances to 5A semifinals
Elite girls soccer players often make big-time plays when the stakes are the highest.
Both Lehi and Cedar Valley had players do that during Thursday’s 5A quarterfinal battle in Eagle Mountain with two stars coming up big for their respective squads.
Aviator senior Presley Devey tallied her 50th goal of the season on a gorgeous blast from 35 yards out that was perfectly placed, showing why she leads 5A and is second in the state in scoring.
But Pioneer senior Ally Dahl, who is Devey’s teammate in club soccer, was also up for the challenge. She notched a pair of nearly identical free-kick goals from 25 yards out by placing them just under the crossbar.
Dahl’s brace turned out to be barely enough but Lehi was able to get the 2-1 win and advance to the 5A semifinals for the first time since 2009.
“I started crying after the game because I was so excited,” Dahl said. “I’m on Cloud Nine. I just feel so good.”
Pioneer head coach Tim Graham lauded both the performance and the sportsmanship of Cedar Valley but was thrilled with how his team played.
“What great leadership we had again,” Graham said. “Dahl comes out as a senior and puts two in. It was awesome stuff. We pressed well and put pressure on their back line, especially in the first half. Our speed up top didn’t get a lot of goals but it created opportunities and put them on their heels.”
The Aviator defense did have its hands full with Lehi juniors Sarah Ballard and Stephanie Roper but always found a way to get stops in the run of play.
It was the set pieces — one in the 12th minute and one in the 25th minute — that gave the Pioneers the advantage.
“I knew I could get it over the top,” Dahl said. “We had the wind with us so I knew I couldn’t sky it. I just had to get my head over the ball and drive it.”
While the first goal put Lehi on top, it was the second that was a masterful individual by a four-year varsity veteran.
After placing the ball for the kick, she noticed that the Cedar Valley defenders and her teammates were still getting in position.
“The ref said since I didn’t ask for 10 yards I could go whenever,” Dahl said. “It was chaotic so I just had to hurry and go. I don’t think even my team knew what I was doing. I always count my steps, take a breath and go. I felt like it was perfect.”
She said that moment when the ball went in because she had spotted the opportunity was extremely rewarding.
“I feel like I led the team and helped them out a lot,” Dahl said. “It just felt so good.”
The Aviator defense had only allowed three goals total in its first 17 games, so there was no way of know for certain how the undefeated Cedar Valley squad would respond.
“We stayed calm and collected,” Aviator head coach Mitchell Hart said. “We knew we had the wind at our back. We had to see if we could get some shots off.”
Cedar Valley was able to generate some chances but it wasn’t until the 68th minute that Devey found the back of the net with her strike from distance.
That energized the Aviators as they attacked aggressively while the Pioneers had to hold on.
“They’ve been putting it on Devey all year and she came through,” Graham said. “She was clutch. We just finally were like, ‘guys get the ball forward, get to the flags and hold on because they’re going to come back down.’ We wanted to deny early entry and put everything forward. The girls listened, just like they have all year.”
Cedar Valley created a couple of tense moments but ran out of time at the end and Lehi advanced.
“We played two games in 72 hours and we have a short roster, so I think we did get tired,” Hart said. “They still fought to the end once again.”
While it was tough to see the season come to a close, Hart couldn’t say enough about what his team — particularly the seniors — accomplished.
“To have the same girls during these last three years has been great,” Hart said. “Having a lot of seniors sucks for anyone but it has been amazing to see these girls help the younger girls, the ones who will take over. I’m going to remember winning that first region title, which we’d never been able to accomplish before. The highlight of the season has been seeing them playing together and working for each other.”
Lehi, the No. 6 seed, advances to face No. 2-seed Bonneville in the 5A semifinals.
“We’re so excited because all we wanted was to keep playing,” Dahl said. “To get here is our biggest thing and we all know that we can do it. Every day we set our countdown to how many days until the finals. We just keep working towards it.”
The semifinal match is scheduled to take place at Juan Diego High School in Draper on Oct. 19 at 5:30 p.m.
Soccer playoff scoreboard
Syracuse 2, Lone Peak 1
Skyridge 1, Pleasant Grove 0
Skyline 3, Maple Mountain 0
Timpanogos 4, Northridge 0
Lehi 2, Cedar Valley 1
For complete brackets, go to UHSAA.org.