WOODS CROSS — For the first time since boys soccer became a sanctioned sport by the UHSAA, Orem High School is headed to the state championship game.
The Region 8 champions controlled the tempo throughout their 4A semifinal match against the East Leapards and emerged with a 1-0 win at Woods Cross High School on Tuesday evening.
“I knew this team had potential from the start of the year,” said head coach Ed Louder, whose squad was defeated by Murray in the semifinals a year ago. “We lost a lot of seniors, but we had a lot of kids step up this year and we’ve been playing well all year.”
“Our winger (Corbett) made a great run down the line and he was able to cross it in front,” Louder recalled, “and Emil just put himself in the right position to tuck it in.”
The score was the ninth goal of the season for the sophomore starter who, although he is young, was not in unfamiliar territory.
“He started as a freshman. He’s used to playing in big games,” Louder said of Cuello. “He’s such a talented player. He’s making the right runs and the right reads, and he’s very dangerous when he gets the opportunities.”
The Tigers controlled the momentum of the game from that point on, allowing East minimal shots on goal.
“We wanted to keep them on their heels. We don’t want to go back into a defensive struggle. (We want to) keep our attack up and try and just dominate the game,” Louder said, noting the play of goalkeeper Ben Mitchell.
“Credit to East today because they really worked hard and they’re a good team,” the coach added. “We just kept them on their heels all day. The kids played really good.”
East earned the second spot in Region 6 and finishes with a record of 11-2-4. The Leopards, who last reached the semifinals in 2006 when they went on to win the title, were led all year by the play of Landen Carlsen, who totaled 12 goals.
The Tigers currently stand at 14-3-1 after working through a tough region, which Louder said made his team feel “battle-tested” and ready for the tournament.
Now, they want to complete the title run.
“To get to play at Rio Tinto is a big goal of ours, but we don’t want to just get there,” he said. “(We are) grateful for the opportunity, but don’t feel like the opportunity is enough. We want to take care of business on Thursday.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org