Eye on the prize: Maple Mountain girls soccer continues building toward playoffs by shutting out Salem Hills
Maple Mountain has one of the most dangerous girls soccer teams in the state, as evidenced by the seven-game Golden Eagle win streak.
Not only that, three of its last four contests have been shutouts including Tuesday’s 4-0 home win over Salem Hills.
But Maple Mountain senior captain Cesia Swain and head coach Craig LaMont remember that it just over a month ago that their squad was sitting at just .500 and working to figure some things out.
So what changed?
“I’ve never had a team make so much progress,” LaMont said. “We’ve had to change some of the ways that they play and they’ve had to trust in my style of game. The team is fantastic. This is probably the most unified team we’ve had.”
Swain pointed to the team camaraderie as making the biggest difference.
“I feel like we have bonded a lot,” Swain said. “We are such a deep team that it doesn’t matter who is on the field. Everyone is going to work hard and we trust everyone, whether they mess up or are doing great. We’re connecting passes, getting more shots and connecting as a defense.”
LaMont lauded the way his athletes have bought into the team concept.
“It can be tough for the players on the bench on a team as deep as this one,” LaMont said. “I credit their attitude for a lot of our success this year. Everyone is engaged and part of the vision of the team. I’m really impressed and really happy with what they’ve done.”
While trust and team chemistry are certainly critical elements for success, they aren’t the only factors. This Maple Mountain team has big goals but is currently facing opponents who have more losses than wins, which can tempt players to be lazy.
“We have to think of state,” Swain said. “It’s going to be hard, so we’ve got to be better. We have to work hard, keep practicing and stay focused.”
LaMont said the team pushes itself to improve during practice sessions where they simulate games.
“We have practice games on Saturdays,” he said. “We have my three assistant coaches and the bench players be on a team and the varsity doesn’t always win. We see some of the best competition in those games and that helps us not get lulled into being complacent.”
He knows that there are some really good teams in Class 5A — he thinks on average there are about eight teams who have a legitimate chance to win it all — so he wants his squad to be at their best when the playoffs roll around in a few weeks.
“We need to be a little more consistent with being patient with our offense,” LaMont said. “We need to play good soccer. It’s nice to have speed and ability, but we also need to be mentally disciplined enough to play the correct way instead of being lazy or overconfident.”
Swain said it helps to want to practice and push each other when the team enjoys being together so much.
“The best part is being with the girls,” she said. “Our chemistry is amazing. It’s just so fun to be around them every day.”
The Golden Eagles (11-3, 7-0) will continue their charge toward winning Region 9 when they host Wasatch on Thursday, while Salem Hills (6-7, 3-4) will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Provo the same day.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.