The history of high school girls soccer at Timpanogos, Lone Peak and Cedar Valley is quite diverse.
The Timberwolves have had phenomenal success, winning four titles in the last decade while also making it to the state title game three times.
The Knights have done very well with a number of deep runs in the playoffs, but it wasn’t until 2018 that they finally broke through to win a state championship. Now they have the target of defending champs on their backs.
The Aviators, on the other hand, are in their first year as a program and although some of the girls have prior experience, they are just beginning to build their own soccer tradition.
No matter what has happened in the past, however, all three of those teams (and eight others from Utah Valley) have their sights set on getting big wins in their respective second-round state playoff games this week.
“For players, there are tremendous pros and cons,” said Timpanogos head coach Natalyn Lewis on Monday. “With no expectations, you can go out with wild abandon and see what happens. Sometimes being on the flip side of that can be very hard with the pressure and the tradition. We tell the girls that it’s just a soccer game but some players take it very personally.”
Lone Peak head coach Shantel Jolley understands that her players might feel extra weight, since the Knights went all the way and got the 6A crown last season.
“I try to keep it in perspective,” Jolley said. “The idea is that we want to repeat and defend the title, but this is a different team. We lost eight starters from last year so this has to be more about the players on this team winning for themselves.”
No one knows what to expect from the new Cedar Valley program in Class 4A this fall, although the Aviators had a solid corps of experienced players make the move from Westlake when the school opened.
“They’ve done really well,” Cedar Valley head coach Mitchell Hart said. “We’ve got great players and it’s been a fun year. We had some disappointments at the end as teams started to work out how we played, but I’m proud of the girls.”
At first glance, the Aviators might be expected to not set the expectations too high for their first state tournament as a team, but Hart knows his players won’t be intimidated by the setting.
“My four captains have been there before last year at Westlake and most of the rest of the girls were on the JV team,” Hart said. “They’ve been around it. We also have very good freshmen who have won state cups and have that experience.”
Timpanogos is at the other end of the spectrum as the Timberwolves are almost always in the title discussion.
“We’ve had a good run,” Lewis said. “It’s been a fun program to be around. This group of girls is hungry to continue that tradition, but we’re not going in with attitude. We fully understand that we have to play our very best against whoever is on the other side of the field.”
All three coaches emphasized the time-honored mantra of not looking past anyone and staying in the moment.
“Obviously the end goal is to go all the way but it has to be one game at time,” Jolley said. “That’s what got us to the title last year. The long-term goal is to get to the finals but that can’t be the main focus.”
She does see a sense of confidence that her Knights can overcome challenges and get back to the top.
“I think the girls now have that belief that we can do this,” she said. “We had been so close but never gotten over the hump all these years. We always had the talent but for the program to get one, that changed that mindset.”
But every team that is still playing knows that this could be their year to make that magical run.
“The very first time we won it was as a No. 3 seed,” Lewis said. “We had away games the entire time, so every game was an upset. We had good players even though we had not had a great season. The girls figured it out just in time.”
That journey started in the first round for some teams but starts now for Timpanogos, Lone Peak and Cedar Valley, all of which had first round byes.
“I don’t like byes actually,” Hart said “I like to get on a roll. But it’s fun to have a home game against Logan. I think we are ready. We’re very excited. It’s great to have that first home playoff game, playing in front of our supporters. That can be a big boost for you.”
Now its about putting your best soccer on the field and seeing what happens.
“It doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the equation,” Lewis said. “We tell the girls to not look at the brackets. What’s the point? What do you find out? You’re going to play someone, so just show up with your jersey and we will play the other team. People can get caught up in that, in whether the opponent is ranked or not ranked. I’ve seen so many things in this sport that I don’t take any of that for granted.”
The second round for the 5A and 6A girls soccer teams will take place at home sites on Tuesday, while the 4A second round will be at home sites on Wednesday (see info box for local information).
Complete brackets and details can be found at UHSAA.org.