SANDY — What does it take to be No. 1 while battling through the toughest region in the state?
Having Alta goalkeeper Elyssa Hashimoto in the net sure doesn't hurt.
Hashimoto — who leads the state in shutouts with 11.5 — displayed pure athleticism Thursday as she held the Jordan Beetdiggers scoreless in the 2-0 Alta victory.
Coming off two wins last week and a big 3-0 win over Brighton on Sept. 13, the Hawks are proving themselves worthy of their recent surge to Class 5A supremacy.
"All of the girls are stepping up," Alta coach Lee Mitchell said. "All of them are big and that's why we're successful."
The powerhouse team boasts one of the best defenses in the state, but that defensive effort would go unrewarded if things weren't getting done on the offensive end. Fortunately, Alta talent is well-distributed.
The Hawks nearly doubled Jordan's first-half shots on goal (12-7), and converted on one of those opportunities. Jordan's McKayla Johnstone made a save, but sophomore striker Sydney Fitzpatrick booted in the rebound to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute. That score would remain until halftime.
As the second half began, a noticeable shift in momentum gave the Beetdiggers an opportunity to score. The speedy forwards were relentless as they worked against a 1-0 deficit.
"We had a letdown in the second half," Hashimoto said. "We have to never let down."
The scoring opportunities came early in the half for Jordan, but they were unable to capitalize on the break down while they had an opportunity to tie things up. They had seven shots on goal in the second half compared to Alta's six.
In the 70th minute Alta's Lexe Selman battled her way into the box, nudging the ball just over Jordan 'keeper Johnstone, who was on the ground as a result of a collision, putting the Hawks up 2-0.
Jordan defender Whitney Tuckfield was close by but couldn't get there fast enough, attempting to clear the ball just after it crossed the line.
Following that final goal, the deficit was unmanageable as the Beetdiggers struggled unsuccessfully to find a chink in Alta's armor.
"Alta has a really good goalie, and we needed to work together and finish our chances," Tuckfield said.
Tuckfield, who is a junior this year and started as a sophomore for Jordan, believes the tough competition in Region 3 will benefit the Beetdiggers later on.
"We'll be used to playing really tough teams and do better in the playoffs," she said.
It is a Region 3 advantage for the Hawks as well, as they play teams like Jordan and Brighton.
"They're great to get us ready for playoffs and state," Alta sweeper Taylor Campbell said. Campbell played an impressive game, largely contributing to the team's success against the Beetdiggers.1 comment on this story
She hopes to see her team stick together and attributes unity to Alta's achievements thus far. "We're all sisters. We stick up for each other, and unity is one of our main goals."
Alta will face West Jordan next Tuesday and Brighton Thursday — a game coach Mitchell compares to the greatest of all Utah rivalries.
"The Brighton-Alta game is the BYU-Utah game of high school," Mitchell said.
Brighton was ranked No. 1 until Alta claimed the spot, blanking them 3-0 last time they met. It's no question Brighton will be out to reclaim the ranking.