LEHI After two tough losses to perennial Region 4 king Lone Peak last season, the unbeaten Lehi Pioneers were confident they were finally going to get past the Knights in Tuesday's girls soccer meeting at home.
Thanks to a strange goal late in the first half by sophomore midfielder Jenna Richins, the Pioneers followed through on that confidence with a 1-0 victory. Clearly, defense was the difference in this game as Lehi handed the Knights their first-ever shutout in Region 4 competition.
"We knew we could take them, but it's interesting that offensively we didn't have a very good game," Lehi coach Brett Bergholm said. "We just took advantage of one chance we had on a corner. But I've been preaching to the girls for years now that defense wins games, and they've really taken that to heart."
Lehi's win marks only the second time Lone Peak has lost a league game in the past three seasons. The victory also puts the Pioneers (7-0-1) atop the Region 4 standings, with the league's other two powers Lone Peak and Timpanogos now having one region loss each.
"Obviously this is a huge win for us," Bergholm said.
For the most part the contest was a fairly even battle, with both sides getting few good looks at the goal and both sides playing solid defense near their own goal. Actually, there was only one solid kick at the net, which came from Lehi's Kyleigh Royall at the 34-minute mark when she let fly a left-footed boot from about 20 yards up top that glanced high off the cross bar.
Still, after Royall's close call, the Pioneers kept the pressure on which paid off a minute later on a corner kick. Off the corner kick, Lone Peak goalkeeper Raven King deflected the ball away from the goal where Richins, in a crowd of defenders, softly headed it back toward the net. Confused, the Knights were slow to react as the slow-moving ball trickled between them and into the goal's right corner.
"I think my goalie thought my post was going to get it and my post thought my goalie was going to get it," Lone Peak coach Mike LaHargoue said. "But give (Richins) credit. She didn't give up on the play, redirected it and put it on target, and good things happen when you stay with a play."
Lone Peak had plenty of similar opportunities, but every time the Knights threatened the Pioneers led by defenders Lindsay Judd, Emily Fox, Makelle Yates and Kelsey Hancock prevented them from getting off a strong kick.
"They seemed to do just enough to keep us from getting that last pass across and disrupting what we wanted to do," LaHargoue said.
The Knights' best chance came early in the second half when a ball off a corner kick was bounced around for several seconds in front of Lehi's goal. Lone Peak took several pokes at the goal, but again couldn't get a strong foot on the ball. Eventually, Lehi goalie Briar Sands pulled the ball out of a pile-up to end the threat."They gave us a ton of heat, and we knew they wouldn't go down easy, but we battled and gutted it out," Bergholm said.