WASHINGTON TERRACE Bountiful sophomore Felicia Sturgeon entered the 2007 season without many expectations. She was young and down the depth chart behind plenty of experienced players. It was going to be a season to learn from the veterans and get some spot-duty.
Things have changed.
Sturgeon now starts and plays an important role for her team. She scored her team's second goal midway through the second half that took the life out of No. 2 Bonneville and all but assured top-ranked Bountiful the win. The Braves held onto that lead and clinched the Region 5 title with a 2-0 victory Tuesday afternoon on Bonneville's home field.
"It feels good to be able to go out and contribute," said Sturgeon. "I am just trying to do whatever I can to help the team. I figure if I work hard and try my best, then that's all I can do."
It was not that the 5-foot-1 and 100-pound forward didn't have talent to contribute all along, but she was a forward on a team already loaded with players able to put the ball in the net. Monica Okapal was off to a torrid scoring pace this season before injuring her knee. Sally Leloudis was a great complement up top and a powerful scorer as well. And that's not including Chelsea Forbes, who scored 13 goals in 2006 or Ari Wood who had 11.
With both Okapal and Leloudis out with injuries, the Braves were looking for someone to score. Sturgeon, who teammates refer to as "Fish" since she was given the nickname in the first grade, is trying to fill the role.
"Fish is doing a great job for us," said Braves coach Dave Wigham. "She is a great player and getting better. She's improving so much because she is one of the hardest workers I have ever had. She is always putting in the extra effort."
Besides Sturgeon's efforts, the Braves had plenty of stars in beating the Lakers for the second time this season. The defense of Ashlynn Hewlett, Darby Richards, Rachel Kime and Hanna Samuela was outstanding, and goalkeeper Molli Merrill posted her 10th shutout of the season.
"I thought the back four were terrific," said Wigham. "Rachel and Darby probably played the games of their lives for us today ... Molli is just big time. She is so good back there. We know it will take something special from the other team to get one by her."
Wood gave the Braves an early lead. In the fifth minute she gave chase on a through ball sent by Rachel Messick. Her hustle was rewarded as the Bonneville keeper came out to clear the ball but it bounced off a defender and back toward the goal. Wood continued running and headed the ball into the empty net.Bonneville had some quality scoring chances as Avery Ford hit the crossbar as did Kami Deeb, but the Lakers couldn't put one away and will have to settle for the No. 2 seed for next week's playoffs.