This is a dream come true. We've been through a lot together. The seniors just got the group united. They kept everybody on the same page, they kept working hard, they tried to stay humble through this whole thing, and what a dream come true for them. —Skyline coach Shawn Kennedy
SANDY — Dallin Holding broke his ankle in practice just weeks before the end of the regular season.
The Skyline defender was sidelined for 2 1/2 weeks before taking the field again in the Eagles' 4A semifinal victory over Box Elder on Tuesday. In that game, Holding, a junior, had two assists, but the wear on his already-stressed joint was too much.
"I was able to have the opportunity to play first half here and it went really well," Holding said of the 4A championship game played at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday evening.
"After that, it hurt too bad. I just said (to coach Shawn Kennedy), 'It's smarter if I don't play' because I couldn't run as quick," Holding said. "I just thought it was better for the team if they had somebody else back there."
Holding gave up his spot on the championship field to better serve his team. He put into action the motto the Eagles had been preaching all season long — the team is the star. In the end, Holding's team emerged victorious, defeating Logan 3-0 to claim the first boys soccer state title in school history.
"This is a dream come true," Kennedy said. "We've been through a lot together. The seniors just got the group united. They kept everybody on the same page, they kept working hard, they tried to stay humble through this whole thing, and what a dream come true for them."
The team emphasis was evident in the Eagles' play as three different players found the net in the championship victory. Junior Nate Jensen scored the Eagles' first goal in the 13th minute when he tracked the ball across the field, watched it hit off the left post, and then found himself all alone in front of the goal with the rebound. Just 13 minutes later, junior Hunter Kone added to the lead with a shot to the right corner of the net.
"You saw goals coming from different people and they supported one another," Kennedy said. "If they got the assist they were great, if they didn't contribute they still supported their teammates."
After the halftime break, when Holding returned to the field with a sock rather than a cleat on his right ankle, junior Sheldon Martineau put in the third score — his team-high 12th of the season — attacking the goal from straight on and achieving his objective for the contest.
"For me personally, to get a goal and maybe get some good passing going," Martineau said of his focus for the game. "That's the type of team we are. Just wanted to play our game as well as we could."
While the Skyline scoring was fast and furious, the Eagles' defense held strong. Goalkeeper Will DeSantis improved to a 4A-best eight shutouts on the season.
"The senior classmen have really led this group," the coach said. "It hasn't been much on the coaching staff. It's mostly been those seniors telling them, 'This is what we're going to do, guys.' I commend them."
Logan, the Region 5 champion, entered the state tournament as a No. 1 seed and battled throughout the playoffs for its spot in the title match. After a narrow 1-0 victory over Provo in the first round, the Grizzlies edged Murray in a shootout to advance past the quarterfinals. A one-goal victory over Maple Mountain in the semifinals pushed Logan into its first championship game since 2009 and its first ever as a 4A team.
Meanwhile, Kennedy and the Eagles entered the state tournament as the top seed from Region 7, but the region championship was not achieved without struggles. After winning 11 straight matches, and 13 of its first 14, Skyline dropped its final two region contests, one to Murray and one to Olympus.
Those missteps strengthened the team, which defeated Judge, Salem Hills and Box Elder in tournament play for the team's first trip to Rio Tinto Stadium.
"I had a feeling we were going to come out and take it to them because we've been playing pretty well this tournament," Martineau said. "We just got the ball our way today, and that's just how soccer is, I think."
And although he did not want to finish the game on the sideline, Holding believed his team could cap the season with a win.
"I hate sitting on the bench. It sucks because they can't hear what I'm saying and I'm the kid in the back that's always yelling," he said. "But they were confident, they had a good wind, they played well. Our whole team was working really well together."
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.