SALT LAKE CITY — A second-half meltdown left East High's soccer team facing the real possibility of going to overtime against Highland as the final minutes ticked off the clock Wednesday.
Momentum favored the Rams almost from the moment both teams came out of halftime, and the Leopards realized lengthening the game would only serve to aid their rally.
"I was freaking out when I saw there was three minutes left," East midfielder Lou Williams said.
Whatever pressure Williams felt did not get to her. The junior scored her first goal of the season in the 78th minute to help the Leopards edge Highland 3-2 on Thursday afternoon and give her team its 32nd consecutive regular-season victory.
East has not lost a regular-season game since falling to Murray 2-1 on Aug. 19, 2008, and has not surrendered a point in regular-season play since a 1-1 tie with Olympus nine days after that loss to the Spartans — with playoff losses to Bonneville in each of the last two years being the team's only overall defeats in that span.
Williams produced the game-winner only after Audrey Gibb made a big play to set things up.
Gibb took a corner kick to set things in motion. The kick was deflected and Gibb tracked the ball down along the sideline. She whipped the ball in to Williams inside the 6-yard box. From there, Williams settled the ball and slotted inside the right post past Highland goalkeeper Ali Perkins.
Williams believes one reason East eventually halted the rally is that the whole team picked up its intensity again after Highland made it 2-2.
"We started slacking and then that's when they got the two goals," Williams said. "Then we knew we had to pick it up the last 10 to 15 minutes. We were running our hearts out."
A mental letdown seemed understandable after how thoroughly the Leopards dominated through the first 40 minutes of play.
East got on the scoreboard in the 3rd minute when Sarah Skanchy tracked down a long ball on the end of a counter attack and fired it at the left post. The ball clipped the post and bounced into the net to make it 1-0.
The Leopards made it 2-0 in the 14th minute when Skanchy struck again. This time, senior midfielder Kendra Nelson flipped the ball back to Skanchy after a takeaway and she quickly took advantage of Perkins being out of position and drilled it into an empty net.
Highland came out with renewed vigor in the second half. The Rams attacked the ball and started controlling possession as the half went on. Scoring chances dried up for East, and the Leopards' defense started letting Highland players out-hustle them.
"We lost our composure because they started coming at us," East coach Rudy Schenk said. "They started winning 50/50 balls and we started panicking. We were trying to play individual instead of passing the ball, which is our forte."
Aggressive play finally paid off for the Rams in the 51st minute when Kate Orchard latched onto a bouncing cross just outside the area and sent a nice high volley inside the left post to cut East's lead to 2-1.
Highland then produced an equalizer in the 63rd minute when midfielder Hanna Andolsek gained control of the ball on a throw-in and crossed it perfectly to Erin Murphy inside the six. Murphy had a good look and lofted a shot that slid right under the crossbar.4 comments on this story
Williams' goal 15 minutes later helped East prevent a second-half meltdown from becoming its first regular-season loss in two years.
Schenk hopes surviving a second-half rally serves as a reminder to his team to stay consistent over a full 80 minutes.
"We're usually a pretty good second half team, but we weren't today," Schenk said. "Highland — I give them credit. They didn't fold. They didn't collapse. They came after us."