We were always kind of challenging (our girls) to be as good as they could be in training and game in, game out. —Rowland Hall head coach Bobby Kennedy
SANDY — It isn’t always the case in high school sports, particularly girls soccer, that the favorite comes out on top. In fact, it is fair to say that more often than not, underdogs find a way.
That was certainly the case in many a classification tournament this season, just not in 2A.
No, the Rowland Hall Winged Lions were the favorite all season and lived up to the hype throughout postseason play. It culminated in a 6-3 victory over the Waterford Ravens at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday afternoon in the 2A state championship game.
“This year, we are the best team in 2A,” said Rowland Hall head coach Bobby Kennedy.
“It’s amazing,” added Winged Lions sophomore forward Jordan Crockett. “We all worked our butts off, and I love to be able to (win the title) with these girls.”
That the title would end up in the hands of Rowland Hall was never really in doubt. After all, the Winged Lions had made short work of any and all competitors en route to the title game, thanks to 168 goals scored compared to just six allowed.
“The reclassification (one of the side effects of the creation of the 6A classification) made our division weaker,” said Kennedy. “As it happens, our team is actually stronger than last year. That made it hard going through (2A).”
Kennedy added, “We were always kind of challenging (our girls) to be as good as they could be in training and game in, game out.”
By winning the title, the Winged Lions dethroned the Ravens.
“It always goes through Waterford,” said Kennedy. “I’m glad we could figure it out this year.”
The Ravens interestingly enough provided the Winged Lions their greatest challenge of the season Saturday.
Throughout the first half, the Waterford defense found a way to limit the high-scoring attack of Rowland Hall, holding the eventual champions to just one goal, courtesy of Giselle Bodeen.
“They posed a pretty big issue for us,” said Kennedy. “I don’t know if it was the occasion or the little bit of pressure or what.”
Whatever the reason, the teams went into the break with the score 1-0 in favor of Rowland Hall, not the score many observers expected.
The Winged Lions emerged from halftime a different team, however, and within 10 minutes they had scored two additional goals, with both Bodeen and Crockett beating Waterford keeper Abigail Hertgen.
“I feel like our halftime talk with (Kennedy) really just changed it,” said Crockett. “We came out with a strong mindset and all worked together as a team instead of playing individually.”
“We just talked to them at halftime and said the better team is going to win,” said Kennedy. “It wasn’t magic or anything.”
Whatever it was, the halftime message worked as the Winged Lions netted three additional second-half goals, for a total of five, one by Crockett and the other two off the feet of Anna Fukushima and Caeli Kennedy.
With that five-goal advantage, and just under 20 minutes left in the contest, it seemed all but certain Rowland Hall would run away with the victory.
Waterford had other plans. The Ravens, notably forward Anna Wood, netted two goals to cut the lead to just three (Wood actually recorded a hat trick, scoring two goals around the midpoint of the half and another with just over ten minutes remaining).
Those three goals were the most the Winged Lions had given up in a contest all year and more impressively equaled the amount of goals scored on Rowland Hall all season.
It was, however, much too little too late for Waterford. The title belonged to Rowland Hall.
“(After losing to Waterford last year) it means a lot,” said Crockett. “All of these girls are just amazing. I really can’t put it into words.”