SALT LAKE CITY — With less than a minute to go in the second overtime of her team's region game against East, Bountiful soccer player Sophia Skedros prepared for a free kick just beyond the 18-yard box.
Set up just off to the left of the goal, it was ironically a shot the sophomore had been putting extra time into.
“(She) has been practicing, staying after practice, and putting a lot of reps in on those free kicks from this range,” head coach Lou Plank said. “And most of them she’s hit from the left side, so it worked out real well for us on that one.”
Skedros sent her shot toward the left post, and the wind carried it to the middle of the net to East goalkeeper Abigail Busath, who knocked it away. Bountiful converged on the goal, and Christina Plank sent the ball to the back of the net, giving the Braves the 1-0 double-overtime victory and the lead in the Region 6 standings.
“In this region, it’s nice to get six points from a team like East,” said Plank, whose team defeated the Leopards, 1-0, when they met for the first time at the end of August.
The recent contest against the Leopards, which was played at East High on Tuesday afternoon, involved drastic shifts in momentum and fantastic saves by both goalkeepers. East controlled play throughout the first half, and then the Braves dominated the final 10 minutes of regulation and into overtime.
“We really started picking it up, playing around and through them, getting lots of opportunities,” Plank said. “They (East) were getting opportunities, but I liked our opportunities better.”
The shift leaned in the direction of Bountiful when Coach Plank moved Christina Plank, his daughter, to a new spot on the field.
“We switched some players into different positions so we’d have a better matchup in the midfield,” the coach said. “Once we made that change, there was a clear difference in our ability to possess the ball. Once we pulled her (Christina Plank) off the wing forward and dropped her into the midfield, she started winning a lot of balls for us, and it really helped out with our possession.”
At the same time, the Bountiful defense and goalkeeper Charity Cole, a senior who played a major role in the Braves’ second-place finish in 4A last season, kept the Leopards away from the net.
“We’ve got a really good 'keeper, a strong 'keeper,” Plank said. “Charity had to make a couple really dicey saves where she had to go to the ground and some where she had to go up to the bar. She’s strong and did a really good job.”
As the game wore on, the Bountiful squad only continued to improve its play.
“East, I think their energy started to drop off a little bit toward the end of the game and ours started increasing,” Plank said. “I think our girls smelled blood in the water. They knew they could do it and East was on their heels a little bit.”
With the win, the Braves improve to 8-3-1 overall and 8-2 (24 points) in Region 6. East is now 8-4 overall and 7-3 (21 points) in league play. That record locks the Leopards in a second-place tie with Woods Cross and Clearfield — the two teams they will meet in the next week.
Meanwhile, Bountiful will play Judge, Cyprus, Clearfield and rival Woods Cross to finish out the regular season.
“(This win) means a lot to us in the sprint home to the end of region,” Plank said. “It’s going to be a photo finish.”
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.
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