AMERICAN FORK — Just as the Lone Peak girls' soccer team will tell you, three weeks can make all the difference.
After falling to region rival American Fork 3-2 back on Sept. 1 on their home turf, the Knights have bounced back and hit the ground running.
The heartbreaking home loss provided the original impetus for the Knights as they have now responded with five wins in their last six games, including a thrilling 2-1 road victory against the Cavemen Thursday, and have outscored their opponents 26-8 in the six-game span to get back on track.
“In that first matchup (against American Fork), we beat ourselves with costly mistakes. But American Fork is a great team; they’ve got great players across the board and a great ‘keeper in the back that anchors them. We still played a little sporadic, almost anxious, at times today, and the moments we were able to score, it was the times we were able to settle ourselves down and play the style we play,” Lone Peak head coach Heather Dahl said.
While keeping its slow start in the first matchup fresh on its mind, Lone Peak made it a point to come out with urgency and energy to put the home team on their heels as it looked to get rolling early.
The Knights (9-3-0, 7-2-0) really controlled the tempo and kept their foot on the gas to remain deep in Cavemen territory and create several solid looks at the net in the first 20 minutes.
Then, after pushing the ball down field, senior midfielder Natalee Wells beat her defender, dribbled around American Fork's 'keeper at the top of the box and punched it in to give her team a 1-0 edge at the break.
“I think the girls came out ready to play today and we didn’t do that last time. We found ourselves fighting back too much from being behind (last time), so we wanted to come out this time and set the precedence early, which I think we did,” Dahl said.
The Cavemen (8-3-1, 6-1-1) came out in the second half and established an early rhythm to finally get rolling on offense.
However, Lone Peak junior goalkeeper Brianne Allen was in a rhythm of her own and showed no signs of letting up as she had several tremendous saves between the posts to maintain a 1-0 early in the second half.
“I think she did a great job for us today. She read the ball really well, she was patient in the back and she just allowed the defense to do their job. That was a big positive today and she just came up really big for us,” said Dahl.
After giving up the game-tying goal to Jamie Shepherd and American Fork in the 60th minute, the Knights quickly regrouped and went right back out on the prowl in search of the potentially game-sealing goal.
Lone Peak continued to slice through and wear down the Cavemen defense before it was able to draw a foul in the box and received an indirect PK in the 70th minute.
With the game on the line, junior midfielder Siri Dahl tapped it to star senior TJ McKendrick, who then sent a booming kick straight into the left-hand corner of the net to take a commanding 2-1 lead and eventually seal the huge road win.
“That was so pretty; it was just executed perfectly between Siri and TJ right there. TJ just hit that like a rocket and split right as that wall was coming out. I mean that was probably the only window she had to do it. So hands down, she just has a knack for stepping up in big moments,” Dahl said.
Ryan Love is a full-time student and has been a part-time sportswriter for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724