Miners earn ticket to state title game
Last year, the Park City High School girls’ lacrosse team ended the season with a frustrating first-round exit in the playoffs. But, this year, the team has marched through the playoffs beating top teams on its mission to claim a first-ever state title at Dozier Field this Saturday.
It’s not so surprising that Park City, one the deepest and most talented teams in the state, is in the state championship game. What is surprising is the manner in which they are doing it.
During the regular season, the Miners would sometimes struggle against some of the top-ranked teams, losing to Murray, Alta and Orem.
But once the playoffs started, the girls seemed determined not to repeat last year’s early departure. On Monday they dispensed a Juan Diego squad by coming from behind to score a last-minute game winning goal for the 9-8 victory. On Wednesday night, they won by a point again, 6-5, in the semifinals in an intense game against Orem.
What made Wednesday’s win so impressive is that just two weeks earlier, Park City had lost to the same team, 10-5.
"Everyone is just thrilled," said Park City head coach Amy Hafets. "I have goose bumps and chills."
Hafets said that, in the regular season, her team wouldn’t play their best games against the best teams, but now they seem determined to play as team and win the championship.
"I think in the regular season they just didn’t show up, but they knew now was the time," Hafets said. "It was now or never."
The Miners had the added challenge of playing Orem on its home field. Hafets said it took a lot of defensive strategy, but the girls’ best weapon was their ability to play together.
"They worked well together and they were completely confident," Hafets said. "They just had to get the job done and play to win."
Orem scored first, but Park City’s Allison Kelly soon answered. After that, the teams were locked in a defensive battle for about 12 minutes that featured a lot of back-and-forth possession in the midfield. The Miners finally broke through as Liz Tingey and Kasi Lemons scored two goals in a row to put Park City up 3-1. Orem scored once more before halftime to set the score at 3-2 heading into the second half.
In the second, the Miners continued to play aggressively, double-teaming Orem, forcing turnovers and passing the ball well. Stefani Player and Nancy Simonds both scored to give the Miners a three-goal advantage, but Orem didn’t fade and came back to tie the game at 5-5. Finally, once again with just a minute left, Annalise Bibb scored on an eight-meter position shot. After that the Miners kept possession of the ball off the draw and held on for the win to send them to the championship game.
"The girls had heart and intensity," Hafets said. "All season I’ve known their potential and skill They still played with intensity and focus."
Hafets said that she and assistant coach Lisa Peck told the girls that they had the experience to win in tight games and it seemed to work.
"They did an outstanding job staying calm, keeping possession and playing their game," Hafets said.
The Miners now face the challenge of beating Murray in the championship game. The girls lost to Murray early in the season, but Hafets said this is a very different Park City team.
"We definitely didn’t give them our best game," Hafets said. "There’s a stark contrast between the team that played Orem tonight and the team that played Murray."
The Miners will also be helped by the fact that Murray plays a game very similar to Orem and Juan Diego. Park City will also be able to play at full strength with a healthy squad.
As luck would have it, the Miners have the added advantage of playing on their home field because Park City is hosting all of the boys and girls high school championships this year.
"I think it’s incredibly important," Hafets said. "They are able to play in front of their home crowd on their home turf."
Park City will play Murray in the championship game at Dozier Field at 4 p.m.
A head-on collision Thursday morning on Brown’s Canyon Road killed the driver of one vehicle and left another driver with critical injuries.