I tell the girls, if they're having a bad game, just like you hear in basketball and other sports, it starts with defense. —Bonneville coach Rob McDaniel
SANDY — Bonneville girls soccer coach Rob McDaniel has always told his team that a good offense starts with a strong defense.
In the 4A state championship game on Friday evening, his team proved him right.
The Lakers created a defensive highlight reel en route to earning their third soccer title in school history with a 1-0 victory over Bountiful High at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"Defense — that's where it starts," McDaniel said. "I tell the girls, if they're having a bad game, just like you hear in basketball and other sports, it starts with defense. Get out there and play defense, your offensive game will come — and it did."
The Lakers spent the entire first half playing strong defense before the offense came. It wasn't until four minutes into the second half that Bonneville struck gold.
"My teammate Ellee (Hall) passed me the ball. She headed it and it came right to my feet," said senior forward Sienna Thornock, who scored the goal for the Lakers. "I saw the goal wide open and just took the shot."
It was Thornock's 14th goal of the season, making her Bonneville's leading scorer.
Sienna was a sophomore when the Lakers won their last title in 2010. That year she watched proudly from the bench as her sister, Jaiden, led the Lakers to victory. Now that she has done that herself, Thornock said she is pleased to be able to share the experience with her sibling.
"It's just crazy," she said. "This feels like my first real state championship since I played in it."
Though it took until the 44th minute to get the goal, McDaniel said his team was confident throughout the contest.
"We knew going into half that we had the advantage," he said. "The first 10 minutes, (Bountiful) came out really intense, we knew they would. After that calmed down, we pretty much held it at our end.
"Going into the locker room, we knew we had it. We just had to execute. We told the midfield to work better with the forwards, give them better opportunities. And it worked."
After Thornock's goal, goalkeeper Megan Fillpot and the entire Laker squad kept up the intensity to prevent Bountiful from bouncing back.
"That's been our thing all year long," McDaniel said. "We allowed the fewest goals in our region, the fewest goals we've ever allowed at Bonneville."
The Lakers allowed just three goals in Region 5 play and eight throughout the season. Fillpot, meanwhile, recorded 12 shutouts in 20 games played.
"Brienna Tuck, that center back, holy cow. She's was everywhere, she stopped everything from coming through," McDaniel said. "It's not just the back four, not just Megan; everywhere on the field we have an awesome defense."
Fillpot added, "I have to give my defense as much credit as I possibly can. Tonight's performance was amazing. I can thank them for saving my butt on a lot of things."
Bountiful finished the season with a record of 9-1-0 in Region 6 competition and 13-6-1 overall. The Braves have won four state titles in soccer, their first back in 1996. Junior goalkeeper Charity Cole had four shutouts while Jenny Skedros (15 goals) and Kennedy Merrick led the team in scoring.