Still unbeaten: Lone Peak girls soccer holds off American Fork
Soccer coaches often make the claim that having a 2-0 lead is one of the most dangerous positions for a team to be in, since it feels like a comfortable advantage and that can lead to subconscious complacency. A goal from the other side can quickly switch the momentum, resulting in the lead disappearing.
The undefeated Lone Peak girls soccer team found itself in just such a situation in Tuesday’s Region 4 rivalry game against American Fork in Highland.
The Knights scored twice to go in front and appeared to be cruising, until the Cavemen earned a foul in the box and converted a penalty kick with just under 12 minutes left in the game.
Would that be the spark American Fork needed to come back?
Not with how the Lone Peak defense was playing.
The Knights didn’t allow the Cavemen any strong scoring opportunities down the stretch, holding on for the 2-1 victory to remain unbeaten this season.
“You never know in soccer,” Lone Peak head coach Shantel Jolley said. “One call can change the game but I wasn’t ever super concerned. We just knew we needed to be smart. They were going to have their chances. We just needed to make sure they don’t get great ones.”
That was exactly what the Knight defenders did, shutting down just about every American Fork attack.
“Our defense really came out pretty soft the last time we played them, and we were not playing very well,” Jolley said. “I think they kind of took it upon themselves today to kind of redeem their performance from last time. We’ve got a really solid core of good, strong returners from last year back there with another year of experience. We’re happy with what we have back there.”
The Knights started the scoring with a classic touch pass to the middle where senior Elle Young slotted it in for the 1-0 lead.
In the 37th minute, Lone Peak senior Solena Sellers doubled the lead when she got the ball at the top of the box, reversed direction, and fired a laser with her left foot that brushed the inside of the post and went in.
“It was a great shot,” Jolley said. “It was actually a lot of what we worked on. We worked a lot of final third combos yesterday in practice, so it was good for them to take it and actually put it into play today.”
The Knights created a number of other scoring chances while keeping American Fork at bay until Lone Peak made its only mistake, fouling a Caveman player in the box.
American Fork senior Nicole Lewis stepped up and buried the shot on the left side, cutting the Knight lead in half.
“The big thing at halftime was that the score was what it was,” Cavemen head coach Derek Dunn said. “The message was now let’s go win the second half. What we really push on our team and what our kids do a good job of understanding is that we take it one half at a time. Obviously we wanted to win the half by two, or by three, so we could win the game but we did it. We won the half.”
But that would be all the scoring as Lone Peak ran out the clock the rest of the way.
While the Knights emerged as the winners, both teams felt like the battle was good preparation for the upcoming state tournament.
“It’s still about a bunch of young players,” Dunn said. “They are getting this experience now and it’s just calming them down. I felt like they were a lot more calm today than they were the last time we played them. That’s definitely a positive and I think every game like this will push us to higher comfort levels and get us to where we need to be. We’re fine going into the playoffs and the kids know where they’re at. I saw jitters and I saw nerves like always, but I think the second half they were gone. We just pushed through.”
Jolley said her Knights are doing well but have to keep improving.
“I think the struggle every year as coaches just trying to figure out peaking at the right time,” Jolley said. “I feel like last year we kind of peaked a little too early. We want to go into the playoffs on a good note, staying hungry still. We’re feeling pretty good but still have a lot to prove.”
Lone Peak (15-0) will host Corner Canyon in the final regular season game on Thursday, while American Fork hosts Westlake the same day.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.