HIgh school boys soccer: Passing game sends Lehi past Viewmont, into 5A semifinals
Lehi head coach Jerry Preisendorf had recently joked about the team's struggles to convert offensive header attempts at the net.
"They did a near-post run and the guy that's 3-foot-6 headed it in," Preisendorf laughed.
Nielson tacked on another assist on a pass to Gui Leme for an insurance goal just before the final whistle sounded, giving the Pioneers a 4-2 win and a berth in the 5A boys soccer state semifinals.
The victory was hard-won. Rough play dominated the second half as both teams sought to break the 2-2 tie taken into halftime. Two yellow cards were awarded.
Viewmont nearly took the lead in the middle stages of the half, but Lehi keeper Taylor Watkins made a spectacular dive to his left, snagging the ball with his fingers to prevent the score.
Nielson and Smith finally broke through in the 74th minute.
"Me and Ty Nielson have been doing that all year, where I just run near-post and try to flick it in. It hasn't worked," Smith said. "It came together all at the right time, I guess."
It looked like it might be Viewmont's time in the first half. Down early after a Landon Jacbosen goal, Viewmont scored two of their own in quick succession. Mike Johnson responded for Viewmont less than four minutes later, blasting in a goal from the shallow-right side.
Landon Brown gave the Vikings the lead minutes later, cutting back to his left in the middle of the field before booting one toward the high end of the goal.
Watkins admitted the Pioneers' eagerness to get ahead on the scoreboard hurt their strength in the backfield in the first half.
"I think a lot of it was we were wanting to score and push the ball so bad," Watkins said. "As soon as they countered we weren't set to get back and recover. That's what caught us off-guard and that's how they got their first two goals."
Viewmont's lead didn't hold long. Streaking down the right side in transition, Leo Fuchs took a pass and perfectly slanted his shot attempt pass the goalkeeper into the left side of the goal, tying the game in stoppage time just before the half.
Lehi controlled possession for the majority of the second half, seeing their midfielders control both the ball and the tempo. The Pioneers hope to do more of the same against Brighton in the semifinals. The Bengals won the previous matchup, 2-0.
"If we play our game, our possession-style game on the ground, which we make the other teams chase, that's what we're all about," Preisendorf said. "I thought they did a very good job of wanting control."
Lehi and Brighton will face off on Tuesday at 1:45 p.m. at Woods Cross High School.
Matt Petersen is the Sports Web Editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.