MIDVALE — Prior to hosting a first-round match in the 5A girls soccer state tournament Tuesday afternoon, Hillcrest coach Megan Beckstead took her team to the school gymnasium.
She wanted to show her players the school’s state championship banners hanging on the gym walls. She wanted to show them how long it has been since those banners have been updated. The girls soccer team, Beckstead point out, has never won a state title.
“Besides drill, tennis won it in ’06,” she said. “Other than drill and tennis, it’s been since the ‘70s.”
The exercise, one of four reflective homework tasks the coach assigned leading up to the state opener against Bingham, was intended to motivate her team.
“I believe in them, but I want them to believe in themselves,” she said. “I’ve just been trying to reinforce their confidence and the positive.”
So far, it's working.
The Huskies rolled through Region 2 play with a perfect 10-0-0 record, winning their first ever region championship. And on Tuesday, Hillcrest defeated the Miners, 1-0, advancing to the quarterfinals — a game it will host for the first time in school history.
“Two years ago we made it to the second round, but we had to go up to East and play,” Beckstead said. “This is the first time ever we will hold second round at home. It means a lot; this will be very exciting for us.”
In the first-round game, Bingham, which was the fourth-place team from Region 3, controlled possession for much of the match, but Hillcrest sophomore goalkeeper Nicole Jessen and her defenders kept the Miners at bay. Bingham created its best scoring opportunity in the 65th minute, sending a shot that bounced off the left post, hit the crossbar, and then landed back in play.
The Miners rebounded and shot again, but the ball soared left of the goal.
“It was a little scary, but once it touched the crossbar and then my goalkeeper came out and just put pressure on her, she made her go wide,” Beckstead said. “That’s what we teach her to do — just put pressure and hopefully that ball goes wide.”
It took until the final minutes for the Huskies to establish their edge over Bingham, scoring in the 70th minute off a shot by sophomore Skye Jeffries. Hillcrest gained possession, which the Miners had controlled for much of the game, and created multiple opportunities by passing the ball out and setting up another attack.
“Our forwards started working really well. Sadie McLachlan, she started hustling her butt and just a couple of combination passes and we were knocking on the door,” Beckstead said. “A little give-and-go fake got through the defender, and one-v.-one with the goalie.”
Fifteen games ago, in their season opener, the Huskies lost to Bingham, 6-0. It was a learning opportunity Beckstead was grateful for after returning the favor.
“Things happen for a reason; it’s difficult to beat a team two times in a year,” she said. “We’ve had 15 games to learn in between then and here, so we’re a totally different team. We just went in confident and strong.”
Up next, Hillcrest will host defending champion Viewmont, which defeated Lehi, 5-0, in the first round. The teams have not met since the first round of the 2006 state tournament, a game the Vikings won, 5-1.
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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