When the state boys soccer playoffs get underway, there's no margin for error. There are no tie games or second chances.
It's all about making the most of the moment.
Less than 24 hours before the 4A state tournament begins, Orem and Mountain View got an early taste of what it takes to overcome adversity and leave everything you have on the field.
The Tigers and the Bruins battled in a fierce Region 10 contest, with Orem snatching the early lead with a goal in the first minute of play, and then Mountain View rallying to get the equalizer in the final minute of regulation.
Both teams battle with all they had, playing through injuries and exhaustion, frustration and elation.
In the end, it was the Tigers who made the final play as junior Dallin Anderson got his head on corner kick and buried it in the back of the net to give Orem the 2-1 overtime win.
The Tigers needed the victory to secure the No. 2 seed, while the Bruins had already clinched the region title. As exciting as it was, both teams know they have to be the ones to finish when the game is on the line.
“This was good preparation for state,” Orem head coach Scott Wells said. “We lost three games ago in a similar fashion, where we let Spanish Fork score a late goal and then we lost in overtime. It was painful but we said then that if we win seven straight, it wouldn’t matter. We’ve won the first three, so now there is four more to go.”
Even though there was a lot of emotion in the rivalry battle, Bruin head coach Cade Jolley doesn’t believe the emotional impact will hurt Mountain View’s chances to make a run at state.
“It was a game we didn’t need to win,” Jolley said. “That goal we scored at the end of the second half was big for our confidence. We played well but stuff like that happens. We are confident in our abilities and our motivation. We would rather have this type of game when it doesn’t matter than in the playoffs.”
Mountain View has been waiting a long time to get back to the playoffs after being eliminated at home in the first round of the 2018 state tournament by Desert Hills (the eventual 4A state champs).
“That was a strong motivator for us,” Jolley said. “You get one shot to step up. Everyone who steps on the field needs to have the right mentality and a strong work rate. If there is a shot, you have to want to take it. Every one of our players is ready.”
Orem advanced to the 4A quarterfinals last year, which was the same as they did in 2017. The Tiger seniors, however, remember what it is like to get to the finals.
“They know how it feels and they know how it feels to have your season end early,” Wells said. “They’ve had that in the back of their minds. They’ve been willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they don’t get out early. They are committed.”
Both teams feel like there were lessons to be learned from the regular-season finale.
“No matter how many minutes are left, you have to play to the last second,” Wells said. “You have to be ready to play under pressure.”
Jolley added: “We have to learn to be strong mentally for the whole game. We weren’t ready in the first 30 seconds and they punished us for it, then we weren’t ready on the last corner kick and they punished us for it. Fortunately we have a day before the first playoff game to talk things over.”
Both Orem and Mountain View have talent, leadership and depth. The biggest thing for both teams will be making sure they are able to connect and work together.
“When we get individual, we struggle,” Jolley said. “When we play together, I don’t think anyone can stop us.”
The Tigers and Bruins have earned home-field advantage in Wednesday’s 4A first round, with Mountain View hosting Green Canyon and Orem hosting Mountain Crest.
Salem Hills will play at Logan while Spanish Fork will play at Sky View in the other two local 4A playoff matchups.
The 3A and 2A playoffs also get started on Wednesday.
In the Class 3A tournament, ALA will host South Sevier while Maeser will host Emery. In the 2A ranks, Merit and Telos are also going to be competing although their destinations have yet to be officially finalized.
All games are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at home venues.