High school soccer: MVPs excelled when it mattered most
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
When the spotlight was at its brightest, the 2011 Deseret News boys soccer MVPs were at their best.
All four had great regular seasons, but they were at their best in the finals, each leading their team to the coveted state championship.
For that reason, Chris Lowrimore of Alta, Jaycson Yeates of Mountain Crest, Alex Espinoza of Wasatch and David Beesley of Waterford have been named the Deseret News MVPs for their respective classifications for the 2011 season.
Chris Lowrimore, Alta
As long as Lee Mitchell has been the head coach at Alta — which goes back 20-plus years — all Alta goalkeepers have been measured up to John Ragsdale.
The four-year starter was named the state MVP in 1990 and he's long been regarded as the best goalie in school history.
He now has company.
Following a season in which the athletic Lowrimore finished with 10 shutouts and led Alta to the state championship, Mitchell said he believes Lowrimore is every bit as good as Ragsdale was.
"That's as big a compliment as I can give 'cause John's as good as anybody this state has produced," said Mitchell.
Ragsdale, who's the goalie coach at Alta, played professional and semi-pro soccer with five different teams after high school. Lowrimore will begin the next phase of his career at Gonzaga University, a great starting point for what could be a very bright future.
Mitchell said that Lowrimore was every bit as important to Alta's state title as Mr. Soccer recipient Derek Boggs.
"He's a great leader," Mitchell said. "Derek was our engine; Chris is our heart. The team played with those two and they're the ones who carried us all year long," said Mitchell.
Lowrimore finished with a 0.60 goals-against average and was instrumental in organizing the back line all year.
"A good goalkeeper is going to instill confidence in their players, and Chris did that, so the players in front of him always played better," said Mitchell. "He was vocal and he would get the defense to do what he needed them to do."
Jaycson Yeates, Mountain Crest
Few players commanded the midfield quite like this Mountain Crest senior.
Heading into the 4A championship game against Mountain View, coach Mike Gurney had every reason to be concerned going up against the Bruins' five-man midfield. He toyed with the idea of tweaking his formation to compensate for the man disadvantage, but in the end he put his faith in defensive midfielder Jaycson Yeates.
Just like he did all year, Yeates rewarded his coach.
Yeates cleaned things up in the middle all night long, then scored a pair of goals with his head to lead the Mustangs to their first boys state soccer championship in school history.
"He was such a smart player for us. Everything ran through him. It's kind of deceiving that he's even out there sometimes, but he does everything so effectively and he makes great decisions," said Gurney. "You never have to worry about if things are going to go wrong with him in there."
Despite playing defensive midfield, Yeates was one of 4A's leading goal scorers with 16. Gurney said at least seven or eight of them were with his head — including his golden goal in overtime of the state championship game — as he was virtually impossible to mark.
Yeates played center back a few times this season, and he could've easily excelled at that position given the chance. Gurney knew, however, that Yeates was too good to put behind the ball exclusively.
Outside of his memorable performance in the final, Yeates was at his best against Sky View on May 3, when he scored all five goals in a rout of the Bobcats.
Alex Espinoza, Wasatch
If you've got talent, it doesn't matter how big or how old you are. This sophomore midfielder epitomized that notion every time he stepped on the field.
Arguably the most entertaining player in the state, Alex Espinoza backed up the flare with incredible production, finishing with 21 goals and 19 assists to lead Wasatch to the first soccer state championship — boys or girls — in school history.
"He could've been cocky and flamboyant, but the thing I liked about Alex is that in practice and the games he really, thoroughly enjoyed getting his teammates involved and watching them succeed," said Wasatch coach Dawain Wheatley.
Espinoza didn't just feast on some of Wasatch's numerous weak opponents, either. The diminutive midfielder scored a goal in a 3-1 semifinal victory over Delta and then scored the only goal in the 3A championship game in the 64th minute against Juan Diego.
"He's got a self assurance about him that's not overly cocky, he just knows what he's going to do, and he'll tell you in a quiet way and then he goes out and does it," said Wheatley.
Poor grades prevented Espinoza from contributing his freshman season, but he got things sorted out for his sophomore season — and what a blessing it was for the Wasps.
Espinoza was a member of last year's Real Salt Lake Under-17 youth team and he's also on the state's ODP team.
"He just saw the field so well, and he moves constantly," said Wheatley.
David Beesley, Waterford
Outside of his incredibly timely equalizer in the 78th minute of the 2A championship game against St. Joseph, this Waterford defender went mostly unnoticed this year.
The outside back quietly did his job all season, and he did it very, very well.
"He was the primary mark on all the teams' premier scorers unless we were down a goal and I had to put him up front. He made a difference on both sides," said coach Tim Dolbin.
Whether it was marking up Millard's Pancho Alcala or South Summit's Levi Thompson, Beesley's defensive task was always a tough one but one he always excelled at.
"He's not a kid you would look at and say, 'Wow, this kid's powerful.' Very strong, very fearless and puts the hurt on people. Kids hate playing against him in practice," said Dolbin.
Despite playing at the back most of the year, Beesley was Waterford's second-leading scorer with five goals.
Incredibly, Beesley was the only senior on Waterford's state championship team. His coach was extremely impressed with the way Beesley motivated his teammates on and off the field.
"Someone that works hard in practice and motivates the team when they're down by a goal or a situation it looks like we're in trouble, and he filled all those roles and beyond," said Dolbin.
When his team needed him most in the final, he provided a lifeline with a stunning goal just two minutes from the final whistle.