State’s best battle it out in preseason
Thursday’s girls’ soccer game between rivals 3A Park City and 5A Alta may have been the matchup of the year. Anyone who cared to differ could just listen to both coaches to be convinced.
"That’s not a 3A team. That’s one of the best teams in the state," said Alta Hawks head coach Lee Mitchell.
Minutes later, Park City head coach Chip Cook was singing a similar tune.
"I think this is one of the toughest opponents in Utah," Cook said.
That love fest translated in a battle on the field. The Hawks came out with their guns firing in the first half, containing the Miners with strong defense. The Alta offense then got in on the action with a goal by Ashley Jones midway through the first half off of an assist by star forward Kealia Ohai. Ohai would quickly strike again with another goal with 10 minutes left in the half.
Lia Margolis kept the Miners in the game with a good defensive effort, but the Miners could not score in the first half.
In the second half, the Miners were able to start playing their game after using tough defense to keep the Hawks at bay.
"In the first half we got out our style of play," Cook said. "In the second, we were able to control the speed of play."
In the meantime, the Park City offense went to work. For the second game in a row, Alex Woodcock was able to bend a corner kick into the far corner of the net just eight minutes into the second half. Woodcock, who is a left-footed kicker, placed the ball in a practically unreachable spot.
"Her corner kicks have been outrageous," Cook said. "Those are going in no matter what."
The battle continued for the rest of the half until Ohai found a open hole and knocked in Alta’s third goal off of an Ashley Jones assist in the final minutes of the game. Park City had a last-second chance on a corner kick, but Rachel Ritter sent the ball a bit too high for anyone to knock the ball into the net and the Miners lost 3-1. Cook praised Ohai’s play at the end of the game.
"It was a really dominant performance," she said.
Cook also praised the Miners’ ability to contain Ohai as well as they did, saying that if they can handle a challenge like Ohai, they should be able to play with just about anyone in the state.
"It builds our confidence," she said. "It allows you to not grow complacent."
Parade All-American player Lindsi Lisonbee was responsible for keeping Ohai in check from her sweeper/center back position.
"She did a great job," Cook said. "It was a nice challenge for her. She was able to maintain her composure"
Although the Miners were unable to come away with the win, Cook was thrilled with the experience that playing Alta in the early season gave the team.
"It’s great to have that caliber of team in the preseason when it doesn’t matter," Cook said.
Cook said that thus far, the Miners have been working hard and playing well against their preseason opponents. She joked that the girls were part of the "gifted and talented" of prep soccer.
"It’s fun to have such a skilled team," Cook said.
The Miners were already behind the eight ball to begin the game with an unexpected game time change. Park City had understood the game started at 4 p.m., but the Utah High School Activities Association had actually scheduled the game at 3:30 p.m. The Miners had to play almost immediately after exiting the team bus at about 3:45 p.m.
The Miners were also without two of their starters and a number of players are already battling minor injuries.
To add to their adjustments, they were also playing on Alta’s worn grass field a far cry from the uniformity of the turf on their home field, which meant the girls had to slow down and fine tune their game a bit. But, Cook said all of these things we’ll help prepare the girls for season ahead and their effort to get back to the state title game, where every week will bring different types of teams and different fields.
"Half our games are away, so we better get used to it," Cook said. "You gotta play on all sorts of fields and make adjustments."
Some of the adjustments that she hopes to see the team make quickly include maintaining their style of play against all opponents and having consistent intensity throughout every game.
The Miners also played on Tuesday at home, shutting out Sky View 2-0. Woodcock delivered an impossible corner kick for the first goal and Lisonbee contributed the other with a direct kick into the goal.
The girls will play on the south side of the Salt Lake Valley next week when they face two 5A foes, Brighton on Aug. 26 and Lone Peak on Aug. 28. Both games start at 3:30 p.m.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.