COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Trailing by a goal late in the second half, on their own field no less, one thing was certain: time was running out on the Brighton Bengals.
Their foes, the Timpview Thunderbirds (coming into Tuesday afternoon’s contest Timpview was considered to have one of the finest 5A girls soccer teams in the state by Deseret News) on the other hand seemed to be assured the victory.
After all, the T-Birds had thoroughly dominated the second half behind an unrelenting attack. The trio of Lily Haskins, Alyssa Spackman and Alaina Pestana, not to mention Tiana Tolman, had been fantastic. Their efforts, more specifically those of Haskins and Pestana, culminated in a Timpview score, midway through the second frame.
With just three minutes remaining in the game, Brighton truly seemed dead-to-rights.
Then everything changed.
Bengals stars — and leading goal scorers — Hanna Olsen and Alexxis Ward, each netted a goal as the final seconds ticked away and Brighton defeated Timpview 2-1.
“These girls work really, really hard and we hadn’t had a close game go our way yet (this season),” said Brighton head coach Brett Rosen. “We were due. They deserve the win. Hard work pays off.”
“This win really means that we got over that (close game) hump,” added Ward. “We are ready to start focusing on State.”
As evinced above, that certainly wasn’t the case for much of Tuesday’s contest.
The Thunderbirds were the aggressors at the outset, dictating the pace of play. In just the first 10 minutes Timpview created multiple scoring chances, including a shot by Haskins that was swallowed up by Brighton keeper Milan Davis.
Brighton answered that initial push, however, and the Bengals possession style offense, after struggling initially against a talented and disciplined Timpview defense, began to create its share of scoring opportunities.
Unfortunately for the home fans, Brighton was unable to capitalize on those chances, coming up empty on three corner kicks, a pair of free kicks and an excellent shot by Lexi Simpson that was deflected away by T-Bird goalie Paige Kawa.
The teams went into the break tied 0-0 and, at that point, a draw certainly seemed to be in the offing.
Timpview wanted none of that, however, and it showed in the second half. After an early and unsuccessful Brighton free kick, it was all Thunderbirds, all the time. When Haskins and Pestana hooked for a much too easy score considering the type of defense played by both sides up to that point, it seemed that Timpview would run away with the win.
That is until Olsen found the back of the net. The senior wound her way through the Timpview defense and drilled a shot past a diving Kawa, tying the score at one goal apiece.
“There were two (T-Bird) players and I took them both on,” said Olsen. “I had a huge gap of space so I just took the shot. It went in. That was a weight off our shoulders.”
“That was huge,” added Ward. “Our energy changed completely after that.”
Less than a minute after that score Brighton was threatening again. Simpson, having already been denied by Kawa, crossed the ball into the box. Kawa deflected the cross, only to have the ball land right in front of Ward.
“Lexie crossed it and I knew the keeper was going to come out and touch it,” said Ward. “I just had this feeling. I knew she was going to let it drop and I would be there, back post, and finish it.”
She did just that, propelling the Bengals to victory.
“Even though things weren’t going our way (the girls) kept grinding,” said Rosen. “They played to our level, to our potential. They did it, and good things happened.”
With the win, the Bengals improve to 9-2-0 (3-2-0 in Region 7) while the Thunderbirds fall to 8-2-0 (3-2-0).
Up next for both teams, on Sept. 19, are region bouts, as Brighton will host the Jordan Beetdiggers while Timpview travels to Sandy to battle the Alta Hawks.