An undefeated season — it is so rare in sports... —Wasatch coach Dawain Wheatley
SANDY — All season long, the Wasatch boys soccer team had been focusing only on the next match.
With no more games in front of them, the Wasps can now look back and reflect on a 3A championship and a perfect season.
Wasatch defeated Region 10 foe Park City 1-0 for its 20th-consecutive victory in the state title game Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"An undefeated season — it is so rare in sports," Wasatch coach Dawain Wheatley said after receiving his second first-place trophy in three seasons.
"We never talked about it at all," he continued. "Every single game, we prepared for the next game, and we just played."
Two of Wasatch's previous victories had been against Park City, and defeating the rival squad by just a single goal proved to be the norm this season. The Wasps earned a double-overtime victory, 2-1, in their first meeting in March and then won by the same score in regulation in mid-April.
"At first, I was a little scared because they're our rivals. They're a good team," said Wasatch senior Alex Espinoza. "Playing them in the finals after we beat them twice in season, I was kinda scared. But it was amazing."
The Miners were hoping it would be difficult for the Wasps to beat a team three times in a row.
"I thought the third time we would have them," Park City head coach Jesse Blais said. "But they played so hard and they have so much experience on that team. Every time we thought we had them on their heels, they'd do something to get us back."
In the title match, it was a penalty kick that made the difference.
Park City goalkeeper Casey Sederman blocked a PK in the fifth minute of the game after Wasatch senior Ben Powell drew a foul in the box. Nine minutes later, however, Cesar Vargas put a second Wasp penalty kick attempt into the right corner of the net.
The remainder of the game was scoreless, although Wasatch had chances to add to Vargas' strike.
"Ben (Powell) had those two that just went wide," Wheatley recalled. "It could have been 4-0, but Park City just doesn't quit. That's the way they are. That's the way our region is."
Espinoza suffered a limiting ankle injury at the end of the regular season and was sidelined for much of the state tournament. His coach, however, made sure the team leader spent some time on the field.
"The plan was, if it's a close ballgame, he deserves to be out here on this pitch," Wheatley said. "Health (and) player development are far more important than a state championship, but he wanted out there. At the 20-minute mark of the second half, (I asked him), 'Have you got 20 minutes in you?' And he said yes. I said, 'Then you're in.' He just creates opportunities."
Wasatch was led all season by the play of Powell, who totaled 28 goals, and Espinoza, who added 17 goals. The seniors were the No. 1 and No. 2 scorers in 3A. The school will move to 4A next season.
Park City finished the season 11-6-1 with a third-place finish in a competitive Region 10. The Miners were led all year by the play of Sederman in the net, Gunnar Stray-Gundersen's 14 goals, and the leadership of Garrett Bullough, who left the title game with a re-injured lateral collateral ligament.
"To get these guys in our last year in 3A ... what a way to go out," Wheatley said.
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: [email protected]