Miners boys soccer takes second in Class 4A state championship behind Desert Hills | ParkRecord.com

Miners boys soccer takes second in Class 4A state championship behind Desert Hills

The Park City High School boys soccer team took second in the Class 4A state championship tournament, culminating in a game against Desert Hills at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman on Saturday.

But to get there, the Miners had to defeat Juan Diego, a team the Miners had played and beaten twice over the season, both times by a single goal.

The Soaring Eagle's senior forward Jared Mariani, was Park City coach Tom Merchant's main concern during the May 11 game at Judge Memorial. Mariani had scored both of Juan Diego's goals against Park City in their most recent matchup in Draper. Rather than assigning a single defender to mark Mariani, head coach Tom Merchant said the Miners' two holding midfielders and defense made a point of keeping tabs on the striker, and successfully shut Juan Diego's offense down.

According to the coach, the game against Juan Diego was reminiscent of the team's quarterfinal game against Snow Canyon, both because the Miners' deep bench helped the team outlast its opponents, and because the team lifted a teammate on its shoulders afterward.

"We were able to keep coming at them with speed," Merchant said. "Both teams were making substitutions, but they didn't have anywhere near the depth that we had."

Merchant said the team's depth had been the result of building momentum within the program – two years ago the team lost in the first round of the Class 3A state championship, and last year it lost in the second round – but the team's success has drawn a lot of talent, bolstered by a good relationship with clubs in the area. Its depth translated into a lot of pressure on the Soaring Eagle, and the Miners scored twice as a result.

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"They were getting in trouble with shots caroming off players and coming back," Merchant said.

Sophomore Goerge Pineda was well positioned to knock the errant shots home, putting the Miners through to play Desert Hills in the championship game. Merchant said his teammates carried him off the field on their shoulders.

Last season, Juan Diego knocked the Miners out of the Class 3A state tournament in the semifinals.

"You wonder with the first two games who's the better team," Merchant said of this season's Juan Diego game. "When we beat them three times, I think we proved we were."

The next day, the Miners took the field at Zions Bank Stadium.

"We had a lot of kids from (Park City) high school come; we had a lot of former players and managers come, so we had a lot of support," Merchant said. "It was really pleasant."

Desert Hills had beaten Mountain View, Dixie and Logan — all in 2-1 games — to get to the finals.

But the Thunder went up 1-0 in the first half against the Miners, then scored early in the second half – a header from a corner kick that Merchant described as "absolutely gorgeous."

"We've been down before and come back, so there wasn't much concern," he said. "But as time went on, we had to push people forward and take more chances, and in the end you either win or lose and it wasn't our day to win."

The Thunder scored two more goals and cemented their place as the Class 4A champions.

Merchant said the team took the loss hard.

"They're young," he said. "It's hard to remember how far you've come. I told them, 'You're playing in an exciting game in a big stadium – someone's going to win, but there's not a high school kid in America that wouldn't want to be in your shoes walking onto the field.'And it's hard to remember that in the agony of defeat, but they've really done well," Merchant said.

Merchant said the team will lose 11 seniors this year, but said there are many talented players coming up through the team's ranks.

"The program is really building well," Merchant said. "It's hard not to be sad after a loss, but you have to remember this was an excellent season for us."