Miners fail to fly past Flyers
When the 3A defending state champion Park City High School girls soccer team saw that they had to get past the high scoring Dixie Flyers to return to the championship game, they were probably not counting on a goalie to be their biggest threat.
But by the end of the Miners’ 4-3 losing effort, it was the big-time play of the Flyers keeper Danielle Watts that made the difference.
"They hit three great goals. We hit four great goals," Dixie head coach Burt Myers said. "Our goalie is the reason that we’re playing at state."
Despite the loss, it was undeniably one of the most entertaining games of the year, with arguably the state’s two most talented teams answering each other goal for goal. That is, until Dixie’s Mikkel Griffin booted in what turned out to be the winning goal with just eight minutes left in the game.
Although the Miners were able to maintain their usual pass-heavy, possession-driven game, the Flyers made the most of their opportunities at the net.
"I think in the first half we made mistakes," Park City head coach Matt Evans said. "I think that’s when things happen when we do something dumb and they take advantage of it."
Ellie Reed started off the contest sending the ball into the upper right corner for the early lead. Dixie’s Cherie Lyle quickly answered back five minutes later with a ball that sailed past the grasp of goalkeeper Cassie Palmacci. The Flyers pulled ahead in the 13th minute when Dixie’s Robin Huddleston sent a pass to McCall Rynearson that she placed into the left corner for the score. The volleying continued as Heidi Beutler again responded with a goal in the top left corner.
It was the Miners’ turn to take the lead again on a beautifully placed free kick from freshman Rachael Ritter 30 yards out.
"I think that goal was incredible and it was from a freshman," Evans said.
It seemed as though the Miners would head into halftime with the lead, when Rynearson scored another goal during the waning moments of the first half.
The scoring cooled down in the second half, thanks in large part to Watts heating up, saving eight goals.
"She was the player of the game. She put Dixie in the finals," Evans said. "If she wasn’t there, we would have scored 10 goals. She’s a very good goalie."
Both teams stayed locked at three goals apiece throughout most of the second half until Griffin’s game-saving shot. The Miners scrambled to score again, but struggled to regain control.
"The last 15 minutes, I don’t’ know what happened," Evans said. "It was a lot harder than it’s been."
Evans said he was proud of the Miners’ offensive output in the loss. With a young team, he hopes the defeat will give them better perspective and help them avoid defensive miscues next year.
"I think Dixie probably thought ‘They can really play.’ We just had trouble defensively," Evans said. "I think a big loss puts the drive in you."
He also said he has no doubt that the Miners will have the same opportunity to go to the state finals next season.
"This team, they are going to go places. They are going to have this chance every year," Evans said. "What it comes down to is who mentally prepares and comes out hard."
Both coaches had questions about the official time keeping in the semifinal match. Myers questioning became so heated after the first half that he was assessed a penalty. Both coaches plan to file a formal complaint with the Utah High School Activities Association.
-The Flyers went on to win the 3A title on Saturday, defeating Juan Diego in a shootout, 3-1.
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