DRAPER — It was quite the contrast in program histories when the Murray Spartans and Timpview Thunderbirds met on the field at Juan Diego High School Tuesday afternoon in the second of two 5A girls soccer state semifinals.
On the one hand you had the Thunderbirds, a regular in the later rounds of the state tournament and state champions as recently as 2016.
On the other hand were the Spartans, a team that had never won a playoff game before this season.
“I’ll be honest with you, this school had never won a state playoff game,” Murray head coach Brady Smith said.
Last season, Timpview advanced as far as the 5A semifinals before falling in devastating penalty kick fashion to rival Timpanogos, while Murray was ousted in the first round by eventual champion Maple Mountain.
Based off history alone, the Spartans, who had already made history by just getting to the semifinals, were the underdogs.
This year’s Murray team isn’t like any of old, however, and thanks to a penalty kick goal by senior Abbi Graham, the Spartans defeated Timpview 1-0.
“To make it to the state championship game is just unbelievable,” said Smith. “These girls have kept fighting no matter the game or the situation. I think the bottom line, and we’ve talked about this before, this team has figured out how to lock it in and do whatever it takes to find a way to win.”
On Tuesday that meant defense.
The Spartans' defense, with the likes of Savanna Poteet, Emily Mills and Megan Mendenhall, was excellent throughout the contest against the Thunderbirds, most notably when pitted against Timpview star Lily Haskins.
Haskins rarely had time to even attempt a shot on goal, and when she did she was quickly and routinely stymied by Murray goalkeeper Alexis Bates.
“Lexi played huge,” Smith said. “Our defenders found a way to match a super physical Timpview. It was an awesome thing to see.”
“They played great,” Bates added, specifically about the four defenders in front of her. “It took a lot of pressure away. I love them so much. They were unbelievable, amazing.”
They needed to be.
For much of the contest, after Graham’s goal especially, which came midway through the first half, the Thunderbirds controlled possession and routinely tested the Spartans.
The Thunderbirds had many opportunities to tie the game at one goal apiece, but Haskins was denied by Bates multiple times in the first and second halves, while Paige Haderlie had a dangerous header sail harmlessly over the crossbar.
Timpview appeared to score at the 70-minute mark, when Haskins connected with Anna Pinegar, only to have Pinegar’s goal, which found the back of the net, be called back for an offsides penalty.
Ultimately, the Thunderbirds' efforts were to no avail. Bates and the Spartans simply refused to lose.Comment on this story
“We were the underdogs,” said Bates. “No one thought we could get here, but we did. We proved them all wrong.”
With the victory, the Spartans advance to the 5A state championship game, set to be played Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium, where they will face the Corner Canyon Chargers.
“I am extremely excited and ready to get prepared for Corner Canyon,” Smith said. “That is our one loss, they gave us the one loss we’ve had this season. We are ready to get another shot at them, with a different look.”