Miners’ dreams of back-to-back state titles dashed by Olympus
Park City falls in championship game 10-9
The only thing that separated Park City from its second state title in as many years and back-to-back undefeated seasons was an Olympus squad that the Miners took down 11-5 earlier in the season. As a team that had outscored its opponents by 283 goals in just 17 games heading into the state championship game, the Miners were favored to add another first-place trophy to the trophy case at Park City High School.
But by the end of Thursday’s state championship game, Park City went home with a second-place trophy and dreams of what could have been instead after a 10-9 upset loss to the Titans. The Miners will end their season with a 17-1 record, but that one loss came at the worst possible time.
“It kind of feels like a fever dream, almost,” junior Phebe Marsland said. “It doesn’t really even feel real. We’ve worked all season for this game, and I know we were coming into the game thinking it was a 50-50. But I didn’t think we were going to be walking away not being the champions. It just doesn’t feel real. We all came off, and it was just utter shock.”
Olympus struck first, but Park City rattled off five straight goals after that. Freshman Maddie McHenry had a pair of goals in the run, and it seemed like the Miners were going to roll to another win and the state title.
But that’s when everything fell apart for Park City. The Titans came back with five unanswered to take the lead right before halftime. Olympus scored with seven seconds left in the period for the 6-5 lead. After 17 straight wins this season – most of them by double-digit margins – the Miners weren’t used to trailing at that stage of the game.
“Coming into the locker room, I think they were a little upset and probably stunned,” Park City coach Mikki Clayton said. “First time being down at half. But we had a really good halftime talk. Kathleen (Whiteley), one of our seniors, gave an unreal speech that got the girls really fired up. I think we came back hard, especially in the first part of the second half.”
When Park City needed a goal to shift the tide of the game back in its favor, it turned to star senior Sam Riely. Riely scored a pair of goals early in the period to hand the Miners the lead once again. However, three straight goals handed Olympus a 9-7 lead with just under 13 minutes to go. Two goals from junior Lilly Hunt tied it back up, but Olympus pulled away for good with a goal with under two minutes to play.
Both teams drew plenty of free-position opportunities all game long, but Olympus kept winning draw controls to gain possession. Junior Ava Kimche came up with several saves for the Miners to keep them in it, but the Titans just had too many chances. Park City hadn’t given up more than five goals in a game all season, but Olympus found a way to outpace the Miners.
“It just was hard on defense,” Marsland said. “We were always there. No matter what we did, they always got the call. And it just always felt like there was nothing we could do. … And we struggled with winning the draw to get possession to start with.”
Thursday’s loss was a tough one to swallow for everyone on Park City’s girls lacrosse team, but it certainly wasn’t the way that seniors like Riely and Whiteley wanted to end their high school careers. Park City has plenty of talent among its juniors, sophomores and freshmen, but Clayton credited her senior class for their contributions to the team this season.
“My heart just goes out to the seniors,” she said. “We have a tremendous senior class. I’ve been with these girls for four years. I cannot say enough good things about them. They all played with heart. They all wanted this win badly. So, my heart really goes out to our seniors.”
The Miners were focused on another state championship all season long. Even though they stormed through their regular-season schedule, there was always an emphasis on improvement. Playing like the score was 0-0 was their mindset throughout the season, regardless of if the Miners were down at halftime like they were on Thursday or winning by 15 in the second half.
“They always say it’s really hard to beat a team twice, and it truly is,” Clayton said. “People come out with different things, and I think we were ready for Olympus. It’s just, again, they played a really great game. It was a lot of back and forth.”
For Park City’s returning players, Thursday’s devastating loss will be a major motivator heading into next season. Thursday was the first time Park City had lost a game since girls lacrosse became a sanctioned sport starting with the 2020 season. Unfortunately for them, the only way to know what it’s like to lose is to lose. And now they know that feeling all too well.
“It makes me want to beat them by so much more next year,” Marsland said. “Me and (Hunt) at the end, we hugged and she just looked at me and said, ‘We are literally going to beat them by so much.’ It just fuels us for next year.”
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