The future is now for the Miners
Park City’s dominant girls lacrosse team boosted by freshmen and sophomores
Park City’s girls lacrosse team continued its dominant season with another win on Saturday over Woods Cross and showed how the Miners are set up to compete for the state title for years to come at the same time.
The Miners, who went undefeated last year en route to a state title and blitzed through the regular season this year with another undefeated record, dominated No. 8 Woods Cross from start to finish with a 20-0 win. Park City has won its first two playoff games by a combined score of 45-0. Senior Sam Riely capped off the day by scoring a behind-the-back goal.
Park City advanced to the semifinals of the state playoffs after Saturday’s win and faced No. 4 Wasatch at Westminster College on Tuesday. The winner will play for the state title on Thursday.
But a look at Saturday’s scoresheet reveals a terrifying truth for the rest of the teams in the state – most of Park City’s top contributors are young.
Of Park City’s 20 goals against Woods Cross, only four came from seniors, as did three of the Miners’ seven assists. Five Park City players had at least 20 goals on the season through Saturday, and Riely is the only senior. Riely led the team in assists heading into Tuesday’s game with 36, but freshman Gretchen Lane wasn’t far behind her with 30.
The benefits of having such a young, talented roster are not lost on Park City coach Mikki Clayton.
“Having these younger girls on the team, it’s just been awesome to watch them progress every practice, every game,” Clayton said. “I think the thing that’s especially great for us going into the playoffs is a lot of teams will be looking towards their juniors and seniors. And we have these younger girls, and we have so many people that can score and so many people that can play great defense. So, we have a lot of threats across the field, and it makes it really difficult, I think, for other teams to play against us.”
On Saturday, sophomore Charlie Iacobelli led the Miners in goals with five. She scored the first two goals to help set the tone for the rest of the game. Iacobelli and fellow sophomores Macy Hoeksema and Skylar Sheppard combined for nine goals and an assist.
Park City also had plenty of quality performances from its freshmen. Rogan Crawford recorded her second consecutive hat trick, and she was fourth on the team with 34 goals on the season after Saturday’s win. It’s not always easy being a freshman on the top-seeded team in Class 5A, either.
“It’s definitely hard, and it’s a totally different experience than anything that I’ve ever done before,” Crawford said. “But I think it’s really good for me as a freshman and the other freshmen because we’re able to compete at such a high level. It’s going to really work us up to senior year, junior year and then just working with the older girls is going to get us a lot better.”
As a scorer, Crawford offers some different skills compared to the rest of Park City’s attack.
“She’s so sneaky,” Clayton said. “Her goals aren’t necessarily loud, big goals like some of the other ones, maybe, that Lilly Hunt or Sam score. But she has this way of sneaking and all of a sudden having three, four, five goals in a game. She knows where to be on the field. She makes smart moves, makes good decisions.”
Park City dominated in the midfield during Saturday’s game, and its freshmen played a large role in that, too. Freshman Maddie McHenry had seven ground balls and four caused turnovers, both of which were team highs. Crawford snatched another five ground balls as well.
“I felt OK about my game,” McHenry said. “It was pretty good. I think I had some good turnovers on defense and transitions.”
Clayton praised McHenry’s knack for winning the ball back for the Miners in the midfield.
“She finds the ball well,” Clayton said. “So, when the ball hits the turf or after a draw, she’s really great about finding and coming up with the ball. She’s also really great about causing turnovers against the other team. She’s really scrappy, which I love as a coach. And she was all over the field today. Lots of turnovers, lots of ground balls, and those are huge.”
Between the likes of McHenry, Crawford, Lane and others, Park City has a strong freshman class that will help the Miners continue to be state title contenders year in, year out. The Miners’ freshmen have played with each other before, and that kind of chemistry has continued at the high school level.
“Playing youth lacrosse, we all play together as freshmen on the same team,” Crawford said. “So, we kind of have worked with each other for the past youth lacrosse year and have gotten to know each other really well. So, playing on the team, we are able to make those connections as the younger girls on the field. And, I think it’s really great for our class.”
As important as it’s been for Park City to have a lot of younger, skilled players, Clayton is quick to point out that this year’s senior class has done a good job of setting a good example.
“I’m so thankful that we have girls like Sam Riely and Coco (Gonzalez) and Kathleen (Whiteley) as these strong seniors to really teach them the ropes,” Clayton said. “So, they have that mentality and that drive from our senior class, and then they’ll be able to carry that with Park City lacrosse as they get older.”
For Crawford, her freshman season has more than met all of her expectations. She wasn’t expecting to play on the varsity team this year, let alone play such a significant role. A long postseason run with her fellow freshmen has only made it sweeter.
“To see all the freshmen playing and working with the team has been really great and an awesome experience,” she said.
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