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Skyridge girls soccer overcomes adversity, beats Syracuse in PKs in 6A semifinals

By Jared Lloyd - | Oct 19, 2021
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Skyridge sophomore keeper Emalynn Levingston (90) celebrates with her teammates after the 6A semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge players poses for a photo after winning the 6A semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge junior midfielder Addi Arnell celebrates after scoring the final penalty kick during the 6A semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge sophomore keeper Emalynn Levingston saves a penalty kick during the 6A semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge senior midfielder Olivia Driggs celebrates after scoring a penalty kick during the 6A semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge players celebrate after scoring the final penalty kick during the 6A semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge players celebrate after scoring a goal during the 6A semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge and Syracuse players battle for the ball during the 6A semifinals at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge and Syracuse players battle for the ball during the 6A semifinals at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge and Syracuse players battle for the ball during the 6A semifinals at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge and Syracuse players battle for the ball during the 6A semifinals at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge and Syracuse players battle for the ball during the 6A semifinals at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge and Syracuse players battle for the ball during the 6A semifinals at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge and Syracuse players battle for the ball during the 6A semifinals at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge junior forward Kylie Olsen races after the ball during the 6A semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge sophomore keeper Emalynn Levingston kicks the ball during the 6A semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)
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Skyridge players celebrate after scoring a goal during the 6A semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald)

Skyridge senior midfielder Olivia Driggs was put in a couple of very uncomfortable spots during Tuesday’s 6A state girls soccer semifinal game against Syracuse at Juan Diego High School in Draper.

The Falcon normally plays the holding midfielder position for her team but when two of the talented defenders got injured against the Titans, Driggs had to take over a new position.

“It was a little scary at first,” Driggs said. “I was really frustrated but I trusted my team. I knew everything was gonna be OK as long as we worked together.

Being thrust into that key role certainly wasn’t easy but Driggs had to face an even more heart-pounding situation later in the game.

With the game tied at 2-2 at the end of regulation and two overtime periods, victory would be determined by penalty kicks — and as luck would have it, Driggs was the first player to take a shot.

“The nerves were definitely going,” Driggs said. “You just mentally prepare yourself for it. You choose a side and you go.”

Just like she had earlier, however, Driggs was up to the challenge. She drilled the ball into the back of the net and — thanks to a pair of big saves by Skyridge freshman keeper Emalynn Levingston — the Falcons come out on top, 2-2 (4-1).

“Levingston was our MVP,” Driggs said. “She saved us so many times, had so many great saves.”

Levingston was also in a pressure-packed spot as she faced the Syracuse penalty kicks.

“It was super-stressful,” Levingson said. “When I got in there, I don’t even know. I kind of just blanked everything out. I was shaking all over.”

When she had saved two shots and Falcon junior midfielder Addi Arnell made her shot to secure the victory, Levingson said she just wanted to collapse.

“It was such a weight off my chest,” Levingson said. “I just about fell on my back and was like, thank you God. It was awesome.”

Skyridge head coach Toby Peterson said the team had worked hard to be ready for that type of situation and it paid off.

“We knew this was going to be a possibility,” Peterson said. “For the last three weeks we’ve been working on PKs just to make sure that we have it down. We’ve given our keeper lots of opportunities to see and be able to read them. Our girls that stepped up and took the shots sunk them. Then our keeper, who for a sophomore has so shown so much determination. Her experience is just really starting to shine.”

He also noted that that the Falcons might not have had that opportunity in the shootout at all if Driggs and junior defender Mia Kauffman hadn’t stepped up to fill the holes on the defense.

“They played positions they haven’t played for a long time, positions they aren’t used to playing,” Peterson said. “They were huge for us.”

Overall, he said he was thrilled with how his team performed.

“These girls are so resilient,” Peterson said. “This is just an example. They don’t quit. They fight through. They got beat up today. Syracuse was probably the most physical team we played all season long. They didn’t let it get in their heads. They just kept playing. We just couldn’t be more proud.”

Skyridge never trailed at any point in the game.

The Falcons scored the only goal of the first half when freshman Kalena Bellini sent a hard cross in, which the Titan keeper wasn’t able to grab cleanly.

Skyridge senior forward Olivia Barlow got to the bouncing ball and knocked it into the goal to put the Falcons up 1-0.

Syracuse rallied in the second half as part of a wild flurry of goals.

In the 56th minute, the Titans got a great cross from Abby Schofield, which hit off a Skyridge defender and went into the net to tie the game.

Four minutes later, however, Bellini got behind the Syracuse defense after the ball pinballed around the top of the box and the freshman slammed it home.

This time the Titans needed only one minute to answer as Cortney Cobabe broke past a few Falcon defenders and sent a left-footed laser into the net for the final goal of regulation.

That set up the drama of the shootout, where all four Skyridge players (Driggs, Barlow, Bellini and Arnell) made their shots, sparking a huge celebration.

“I’m so excited,” Driggs said. “It means everything for this team. We have worked so hard since the beginning of June. We have worked every day, and we are prepared for this.”

Now the Falcons turn their attention to the 6A championship, where they will face No. 2-seed Riverton.

“From the very beginning of the season, that’s what we’ve been talking about,” Peterson said. “Our No. 1 goal was to make it to the state championship game and to bring home the trophy. The message to the girls is going to be celebrate this today but tomorrow we’ve got more work to do.”

That game is scheduled to take place at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy Friday at 11 a.m.

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