Blonde spirits leading Park City into playoffs
Miners celebrate seniors, lock up region title
May 2, 2017
As the Park City High School boys' soccer team celebrated its 10 seniors on Monday afternoon prior to a match with Tooele, there was a developing theme as each senior's name was called out.
It wasn't just the fact that they were all seniors and nearing the end of their high school careers. Nor was it the ceremonial roses the players carried with them to hand to their parents.
The common factor among the players was blonde hair, a trend that extended to the team's underclassmen and seemingly many of their classmates at Park City High School.
"I saw one kid in a window of a classroom, and I thought, 'No, that's not who it was,'" Head Coach Tom Merchant said. "Then, another kid walked out [with blonde hair and said], 'We didn't want you to see this yet, Coach.' That was totally on their own."
With Monday afternoon's 5-1 win over Tooele, the Miners officially secured their Region 10 title after going 7-0-1 in region play. They'll also be the No. 1 seed heading into the UHSAA 3A state playoff.
Merchant is proud of the team's success, but he says he's more excited about its camaraderie.
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"From my point of view, when I saw [the blonde hair], I had already won," Merchant said. "That is what we've been striving for the last 18 months, is that team buy-in. This is us. This is our group. We play for each other. We're still working on it, but that was a huge step, a huge signal to me that they have accepted each other as teammates. That's big."
Like a hairstyle, this team's togetherness had to grow throughout the season. The group spirit was on display minutes into Monday's contest when senior Klomp, called up from junior varsity for Senior Night, was the first to find the back of the net to give the Miners the 1-0 lead.
First goals in a region game typically bring excitement and joy to the team, but when Klomp's goal beat the keeper, it was pandemonium on the sideline. Even Merchant, who rarely gets up from his sideline chair, let the moment get the best of him and jumped up with his players.
"That goal made all the difference," Merchant said. "Not only did I cheer, but what I really enjoyed was the team embraced the fact that Greg scored that goal. That spirit, that blonde spirit that we have now has grown. It was a little slow, but it happened. We are a group."
Merchant said this is an exciting time for the Park City program. The team just completed the regular season undefeated in region play (with one tie) and will head into the state playoffs with a ton of steam. As the No. 1 seed, the Miners are looking to finish off the season with a bang.
"We're on a celebratory note now," Merchant said. "We can enjoy our seniors and the fact that we secured the region, but there's 15 other teams in 3A that all want to be top dog. Everything counts and the little mistakes become more glaring at this point. We need to keep working in the direction we are.
"I'm pleased where we are, but we'll be even more pleased in couple of weeks if we're sitting in Rio Tinto as champions."
Park City will host Carbon High School in the first round of the UHSAA 3A state playoffs on Thursday afternoon at Dozier Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.