Miners girls lacrosse starts season hungry for sixth straight title
The Park City High School girls lacrosse team has its work cut out for it if it wants to maintain its dominance over the sport in Utah.
Last season, the team dropped just one game – home game to Herriman in the regular season, which it made up for by upending Herriman in a rematch for the state championship.
With that game, the Miners won its fifth consecutive state title.
To repeat that season and take a sixth title will be tough, but that’s what coach Zach Sadoff, now in his second season coaching the Miners, said the team will aim for running into 2019.
“What we did last year is a nice feeling,” Sadoff said. “We would like to do that again.”
This year’s squad has five seniors, returning a starting goalkeeper in Courtney Kaufman.
“She’s been on varsity since she was a freshman,” Sadoff said. “She’s learned a lot and keeps getting better. I think she’s a solid foundation defensively.”
Also returning as seniors are attackers Corrine Sullivan, Parker Seifert and Jessie O’Neal, All-American midfielder Shaye Henderson, and defender Caitlin Hickey.
“There’s talent all over the field,” Sadoff said.
The team has also brought four freshmen into its varsity ranks in Anya Szwajkun, Samantha Riely, Columba Gonzalez, and Eena Yu.
“We are constantly trying to raise the level of play in this town,” Sadoff said of the freshmen. “Are they always ready right out of the gates? Absolutely not, but it’s time to learn you only get better by being challenged and playing some of those better players in practice every day.”
The road to extending their reign over Utah, though, begins with three preseason games in the Sunshine State.
On March 8 and 9, the team traveled to San Juan Capistrano, California, just south of Los Angeles, where they played St. Margarete’s Episcopal School in a rematch where the Miners fell 12-6.
This season, Park City still lost, but Sadoff said the team was notably more competitive, losing 8-7.
“We played them last year and they rung our bell a little bit, especially in the first half,” he said. “This year the girls were ready right from the start, and there were times when it really could have gone either way. So that was exciting, it was a great way to start our trip.”
He added that it might seem trite to draw conclusions about the difference between last season’s game against St. Margarete’s and this year’s, but said “if you were there, it was a different ballgame.”
“By no means did St. Margarete’s play their best game, but neither did we, and it’s OK to be in a dogfight like that,” he said.
The Miners then faced Santa Margarita High School, a 20 minute drive inland in Rancho Santa Margarita, the next morning, losing 13-12.
“The girls were a little tired,” he said. “We traveled the day before. It was not ideal conditions, but still a beautiful sunny day for them to play a game. Again… the margins got thinner, and we had a couple unforced turnovers.”
The team then defeated Newport Harbor High School, an hour away in Newport Beach, 12-11 in the last game of its trip.
Sadoff said the win was “necessary.”
“I think the nice thing about the California trip is it gave us things we need to work on but it also proved to us that when we play our game that we can play with just about anybody,” he said. “So you find that balance.”
Toward the end of the game, he said the team started to click in a way it hadn’t in the other two.
It will need that unity through the season, starting with two big tests next week at perennial contender Corner Canyon on Monday at 5 p.m. at Draper Park Middle School in Draper, and last season’s state runner-up, Herriman, on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Copper Mountain Middle School in Herriman.
As for the state championship, Sadoff said the team is under enough pressure without belaboring the subject in practices. He said they acknowledged it at the start of the season, and have moved on to the work of preparing for the upcoming games.
“I think just makes you aware that you can’t take plays off” he said of acknowledging the goal. “Because the other teams aren’t.”
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.