SANDY — With two second-half goals, the Lehi Pioneers earned their second boys soccer championship in four years Thursday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The victory, a 2-0 triumph over Region 4 foe Bingham, gave the Pioneers their first title in Class 5A.
“I was proud of the boys and how they fought,” said head coach Jerry Preisendorf. “We didn’t play very well, but we got that win. So that’s what counts.”
The Pioneers had already defeated Bingham twice during the regular season, and, as Preisendorf noted after his team’s semifinal victory over top-ranked Brighton, “it is not easy to beat a team three times.
“Bingham is a great team. I love coaching against them,” the Lehi coach added. “Their coach (Matt Kennaley) is a class act and he always has his teams ready.”
The Miners were indeed ready, and they controlled the tempo for large portions of the game. However, they were never able to capitalize with a goal.
“For the most part, I thought we held the ball. We did what we were supposed to do, created chances on goal,” said Kennaley, Bingham's head coach. “We just didn’t quite get the toe on it to poke it in the back of the net.”
Both of Lehi's goals came on unconventional plays in the second half. The first, scored in the 52nd minute, resulted from a Caide Ramos pass to Gui Leme, who crossed the ball to the center of the field and saw it ricochet off a Bingham defender and into the net.
In the 72nd minute, senior Chad Preisendorf sent a free kick toward the Miners’ net and before the Bingham defenders could clear it, officials ruled the ball had crossed the goal line.
“It looked like it was just a big bounce into the box,” Kennaley said of the latter play. “We should have come out and attacked the ball earlier. It’s just fundamental; you don’t let the ball bounce like that through your (18-yard box). We did and it got behind our ‘keeper, and I guess it went in.”
Preisendorf noted that a major part of the title run was due to the play of senior defender Aaron Caprio.
“My hat’s off to Aaron Caprio,” the coach said. “He is one of the better offensive guys in the state. He and I had a discussion, and he was going to anchor that defense. You can’t get any more unselfish than that.”
Caprio, along with goalkeeper Taylor Watkins, led the defensive squad while Leme sparked the offense with 15 goals on the season.
Bingham, which last reached the championship match when it won in 2001, finished the season 13-6-1 overall and was led in scoring by sophomore Gabe Altheman, who totaled nine goals.
“I want to say we got a combination, maybe two big scoops of unlucky today,” Kennaley said. “We went up against a really good team, a team that was motivated and they played really hard. You have to give them all the credit in the world because they’re the ones with the first-place trophy today.”
Lehi, which previously won 3A championships in 1997 and 1998 in addition to the 4A title in 2010, was motivated by overcoming setbacks all season long.
“That first one, those boys new they were going to win it,” Preisendorf said. “This year, we had a lot of trials and they came through it. They’re stronger today. They’re a tighter knit group.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org