DRAPER The Orem girls soccer team's biggest challenge this season was simply learning to play up to its potential. During Saturday's 4A state championship game, the Tigers finally put it all together and dominated.
Orem beat Highland 4-0 to win its first-ever championship. The Tigers' 10 seniors, many of whom were four-year starters, finished their high school careers exactly the way they wanted to.
"We finally played our complete game," Orem coach Ed Louder said. "We've been looking for it all season. I'm excited for the girls. They put it out today and earned it."
The Tigers jumped on the game at Juan Diego's stadium early with a goal in the opening minutes and never looked back. Highland, the Cinderella team of the tournament, looked a little nervous and tight in the early going. The Rams stayed close for a good portion of the game, but Orem just had too much.
In the third minute, Kaitlyn Thomas lined up a corner kick and sent the ball in low to the near post. Anne Shallenberger was cutting across the box and volleyed the ball straight into the back of the net. The early 1-0 lead allowed Orem to play the rest of the game the way it wanted.
"It was really big," said Shallenberger of the first goal. "That dictated the flow of the game a lot because it gave us a lot of momentum and more energy."
The Tigers' possession and passing kept Highland off the ball while they took advantage of space in the midfield to patiently wait for their chances. When the Rams did get possession, they never came close to making it through the back line.
"I think that's the best we've played by far the whole season," Shallenberger said. "It just all clicked finally. We peaked right at the perfect moment."
In the 41st minute, the lead was doubled when the Highland goalkeeper had trouble scooping up a loose ball. Jaime Lyons was on the spot to punch the ball in.
In the 58th minute, another loose ball on a corner kick was knocked in by Maggie Plothow. Three minutes later Orem capped off the scoring when a Shallenberger cross found Lyons, and the senior forward beat the goalkeeper to the far post.
"Today they just stepped up and did what they wanted to do," Louder said. "I knew they had it in them. Things just fell our way tonight."
The Tigers' senior goalkeeper, Aly Tucker, had an easy day on her line. The four defenders in front of her were like a brick wall, and any ball that did get through was comfortably scooped up.
"We tried not to make as many mistakes in this game," Thomas said. "Everybody did their own part."
Despite the loss, Highland still had its best season in school history and earned a lot of respect in taking home second place.