Our coaches told us every single game that we would get here if we put the work in. We got to the final and we won. It’s insane. It doesn’t feel real. —Maple Mountain's Anna Pickering
SANDY — When the 80 minutes of regulation in the 5A state championship drew to a close Saturday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Maple Mountain Golden Eagles and Timpanogos Timberwolves were locked in a 1-1 tie.
The game went into overtime, which Golden Eagles head coach Jeff Lewis believed was fitting.
“The coaches and I said heading into overtime, ‘What else would you expect?’ This was our eighth overtime game this season so of course the championship game would go into overtime.”
It didn’t just go into overtime. No, the Golden Eagles and Timberwolves battled through two overtime periods and a penalty shootout to determine the 5A champion.
When Timpanogos midfielder Itzel Mejia’s penalty try sailed harmlessly wide left of the goal during penalty kicks it meant only one thing: the Golden Eagles had just won their first-ever state championship.
“Our coaches told us every single game that we would get here if we put the work in,” said Maple Mountain junior Anna Pickering, who netted the only regular time goal for the champions. “We got to the final and we won. It’s insane. It doesn’t feel real.”
“Our school has never won in girls soccer,” added goalkeeper Kayla Thompson. “It is so exciting to get this one. We’ve been practicing since August, maybe July, for today. I’m so proud that my team got here.”
The Golden Eagles claimed the title thanks to a 5-4 edge in penalty kicks and a bit of luck.
“I’ll be honest with you, with a shootout there has to be a little bit of luck,” said Lewis. “We love the win and are thrilled to be champions but you’d rather win in the run of play.”
Things were up and down for Maple Mountain in that run, especially at the outset. The Timberwolves seemed the better team for much of the first half, controlling both the midfield and possession.
“We struggled with nerves,” said Lewis. “We weren’t playing our game early on.”
Eventually, the Golden Eagles' play began to pick up, which ultimately led to Pickering’s second-half score.
“We started possessing the midfield and (the ball) came through. I just cut it in, shot it and it went in,” said Pickering. “It was the best feeling ever. I knew it was coming. I just had to put one in.”
“After we scored you could see the girls got back to our game,” said Lewis. “Our ability to play our game held us through overtime and the double overtime.”
Timpanogos did answer with a score of its own, almost immediately following the Golden Eagles' goal, off the foot of Tess Donaldson.
The game eventually made its way to penalty kicks, of course, with both Thompson and Timberwolves keeper Mia Barlow making one fantastic save after another until Mejia’s miss.
“Penalty kicks are stressful, but I was confident,” Thompson said. “Our team mantra has been ‘Today for Tomorrow’. We’ve been working every day for today. Today was that tomorrow.”
“There is no better way to end (both a season and high school career) than this,” added Thompson. “I am so happy.”