A strong defensive identity has become entrenched in the Highland girl's soccer program — and with good reason.

The Rams had one of the best defenses in 4A a year ago, giving up only 0.9 goals per game in all 20 of their matches. This season has been no different, with Highland allowing a single goal — in its season opening win over Judge — on its way to a 6-0 start. Such defensive efficiency ranks second only to Orem in 4A.

The Rams backline has taken to calling itself "the wall' and the moniker is a fitting one. Simply put, nothing seems to get past them — with five straight shutouts and counting.

"It's been hard to get, but that's been our goal every single game," senior goalkeeper Erica Owens said. "Each game, I've told our wall that we're going to get a shutout."

Having a player like Owens anchoring the net makes it much easier to reach such a benchmark. Since her freshman year, she has registered 33 shutouts on the junior varsity and varsity levels. Not surprisingly, Owens has started to draw attention from major colleges.

Most recently, Notre Dame has expressed interest in the senior after seeing her in a soccer camp at its South Bend campus.

Owens enjoys plenty of support from a solid backline. Players like Kacee Patrick and Anna Price greatly reduce the amount of balls that penetrate far enough to even require a save.

As phenomenal as Owens is in the net, Rams coach Lloyd Siegendorf believes any keeper could flourish with those defenders around them.

"They would make a mediocre goalie look good," Siegendorf said. "We've got a very strong defense.'

It definitely has given Highland an advantage early in the Region 6 race. The Rams have a five-point lead in the standings after four games and have a chance to build on it with matches against all three teams tied for second place — Murray, East and West — in next few days.

That's not to say the region belongs to Highland at this point.

East is a legitimate title threat with playmaking stars like Saralyn Drury and Anna Soloman leading the Leopards.

Murray is a dangerous team that can put up bundles of goals in a hurry, especially when it comes to Stephanie Palmer. Palmer has led the team in scoring over the past two seasons.

West and Cottonwood have both been surprise teams early after middle-of-the-pack finishes in 2007.

Still, if any team is up to the challenge of navigating the region successfully, the Rams look to be the one. Nothing would feel better than finally nailing down the region and state titles that eluded Highland a year ago.

"It's definitely our ultimate goal, but we take it step by step," Webber said.

So far, the steps taken have been the right ones.

Region 6 predicted order of finish

(Based on coaches' votes)

1. East

2. Highland

3. Murray

4. Cottonwood

5. Olympus

6. West

7. Cyprus

8. Granger


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