SALT LAKE CITY -- Same teams. Same score. Different result.
Such was the frenetic drama between the Timpanogos and Skyline girls soccer teams on Thursday. The Eagles avenged their 2011 championship game defeat, beating Timpanogos 1-0 on their home field in the second round of the 4A state playoffs.
Skyline scored the lone goal of the match early on, when a perfectly placed corner kick from Ashley Aberton found the net amid a crowd of players from both teams.
“I just reminded my players game after game, ‘Timpanogos, this team is the defending champions and they’re not going to go down easy,’” Skyline head coach Yamil Castillo said. “They’re well coached and a very good team. We fortunately scored the first goal.”
For Timpanogos, the lasting image will not be the goal Skyline scored, but rather the multiple times they nearly found the net themselves.
That and Eagles keeper Alli Spencer.
The senior standout shut down a flurry of open shots on goal both in transition and within Timpanogos’ normally devastating offensive sets. Midfielder Amanda Marshall’s shot on the run was placed well and low, but caught by Spencer. Senior wing Breanna Brown blasted an attempt toward the low-right portion of the net, only toss Spencer jump in the same direction and block it away.
Perhaps the most impressive play came just before, when forward Katie Henderson took a pass from Jordyn Chung-Hoon on the right side. Spencer rushed to meet her, and Henderson kicked the ball with such force that its momentum continued despite the initial block. With the ball trickling toward the goal line, Spencer quickly scampered on hands and knees, just snagging the ball with her fingertips just before it went into the net.
“We have a bunch of seniors, and everybody remembers exactly how it felt walking off at Rio Tinto, losing 1-0 to these guys,” Spencer said. “Especially letting that goal go early and having to fight the whole game and just not being able to do it, and then having to fight the whole game and just not being able to do it. It means a lot to us.”
Lewis cited both her team’s slow start as well as Eagles’ uniquely narrow home field as factors in the defeat. The Timberwolves boast the largest field in the state, while Skyline sees a particularly small space between the penalty box and the sideline. The transition was visibly an uncomfortable one for an offense that before had thrived on ample room on the sides where the wings can operate.
Also visible were the emotions following the game, particularly for the Timpanogos seniors. With the Timberwolves having advanced to the state championship game each of the last three seasons, many of them found it difficult to accept the end of the season and their high school careers had already come.
“It’s a bitter end for them, unfortunately, because they’re great seniors,” Timpanogos head coach Natalyn Lewis said. “It’s like I told them, you can’t ever really enjoy what it takes to win and to get that distance if you’ve never experienced not [getting that far].”
Matt Petersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.