I knew our program was turning around but I never thought I would be here when we were playing at Rio Tinto. —Syracuse goalkeeper Gabby Segura
DRAPER — Three down, just one more to go. The Syracuse Titans, who prior to this season had never won a playoff game, took down the Bingham Miners 4-1 Tuesday morning at Juan Diego High School. The victory secured the Titans first berth in the state championship game, to be held Friday afternoon at Rio Tinto stadium.
“It feels pretty amazing,” Syracuse goalie Gabby Segura said. “I knew our program was turning around, but I never thought I would be here when we were playing at Rio Tinto.”
“It’s amazing,” added fellow Titan Ashlyn Hall. “Four years ago, no one would have expected us to be here, but this was our goal all along.”
Syracuse head coach Taylor Allen was in lockstep with his players, noting “the girls did it. This year was the first time in school history we have even won a playoff game. Now we are in the state championship. Before I got here, they had only been to the playoffs one time (in 2008). We are doing it, man.”
Indeed they are, in large part to a brand of soccer much hoped for in girls high school soccer but rarely seen.
“Girls soccer has a tendency to play boom ball, kick it over the top” said Allen. “I believe playing down the middle, down the seams, is a threat. We have worked on that all season and are blessed with players like Caroline (Stringfellow) and Ashlyn, who have some of the best touch I have ever seen.”
Both players demonstrated that touch to near perfection on two first half scores by the Titans. On each goal, the scorer was gifted a nearly perfect goal scoring opportunity by teammates.
Lauren Burnett was the first Titan to benefit, after a combination of Syracuse touches.
On that occasion, Hall sent a through pass out ahead to Stringfellow, who then attempted to cross the ball into the box, to a streaking Sarah Wynn. Wynn was held up by a Miner defender but managed to redirect the ball to a wide-open Burnett. The junior midfielder didn’t waste the opportunity, slipping the ball past Bingham goalie Danielle Orr.
“This year our focus has been ‘We, not me,’” said Hall. “We play unselfishly and look for each other because we know anyone can score. We built up the chemistry all year, and it’s paying off now.”
The second score required a little less technical skill on the part of the Titans, but not by much. Another through pass was the catalyst, this time hitting forward Lexi Chenoweth. Due to pressure by Bingham, Chenoweth was unable to secure the ball. That didn’t slow down her down and she centered the ball to a wide-open Hall. Hall, the Titans second leading goal scorer this season with 22 goals, did the rest, netting the Titans second goal.
She wasn’t finished, however, as she netted a second goal, the third of the day for Syracuse, a mere six minutes into the second half. This time, Hall was the beneficiary of a cross by Stringfellow that left her completely untouched in front of goal.
Through it all, the Miners refused to go away, despite trailing three goals to none.
That control helped the Miners break through, just past the midpoint in the half. Saunders sent a corner into the box, and Elison finished it with a header that snuck between Segura’s legs.
Bingham threatened a few more times, most notably on a Song header, but Elison’s score would be the extent of the damage done by the third-seed out of Region 4.
Syracuse added one final goal, with five minutes remaining in the contest, when Stringfellow emerged unscathed from a collision between her and two Miner defenders. All alone in the box, the freshman goal scorer extraordinaire (Stringfellow has scored a team-best 28 goals this season) easily found the back of the net, capping off the Titans' semifinal victory with a bang.
“It was wonderful,” said Allen of the win. “We did it today. That was awesome.”