DRAPER — For the first 15 minutes of the 6A semifinal contest between the Lone Peak Knights and the Syracuse Titans, the Knights, the No. 2 seed out of Region 4, looked outmatched.
The Titans, Region 1 champions and runners-up in the 2017 state title game, roundly controlled possession of the ball. Led by the trio of Caroline Stringfellow, Ashlyn Hall and Sarah Wynn, Syracuse appeared primed to make it to a second consecutive state championship game.
Fifteen minutes was it, however, for any and all Lone Peak struggles.
The Knights defeated the Titans 1-0 Tuesday afternoon at Juan Diego High School, earning a berth in the 6A state championship game.
Nicole Ray, a junior midfielder at Lone Peak, netted the game’s only goal in the 35th minute, and the Lone Peak defense held on from there, shutting down the high-powered Titans’ attack.
“It was going to be a gritty win for either side,” Lone Peak head coach Shantel Jolley said. “My girls seriously just pushed through. It was an exhausting game. It was great to see how mentally tough they could be.
“Games like this, with an even playing field regardless of who’s playing, they just did a great job.”
Not at the outset though, a fact Jolley attributed to nerves.
“I think it was nerves and they just finally kicked them,” the second-year head coach said. “Syracuse was here last year and they have a little more experience than most of my girls. I could tell we came out a little too nervous. Once they overcame those nerves they played like I know they can play.”
One of the many Knights who played up to their potential was Ray, despite an unexpected in-game position change.
“I actually threw Nicole, who had been playing center mid all year, up top,” Jolley said. “I knew with their center back (Kelsey Steed) that is pretty quick, that she’d be a great option with her foot skills and the talent she has. I knew that the center back would have to stay true to her.”
Ray, for her part, was more than a little surprised by the request.
“I usually play the 10, so when she put me up top I wondered why,” Ray said. “I mean my position is the 10 and I was doing pretty decent at that position this year.”
The change paid off in a big way for the Knights, as Ray scored the game’s only goal from her new forward position.
“They kept feeding me balls and I started getting more confidence that I could score,” Ray said. “I started to think, ‘I can do this.’”
Ray’s breakthrough goal came courtesy of a through pass from Ellie Durfey.
“I just saw the slot, saw my cousin Ellie Durfey and I called for it,” said Ray. “She slotted it right through. I didn’t know if he was going to call offsides or not, I just kept going and just slotted it in. My heart literally just stopped, I was so happy. That was cool.”
Following the score, no group of Knights was more impressive than the Lone Peak back line. With players like Addy Symonds, the Knights handled the best that Syracuse could throw, including a pair of late goal scoring chances by Titan senior Adriana Owen.
“Obviously we’ve heard everything about Caroline and how good she is, but I don’t think Syracuse has seen a back line as good as our back line is,” Jolley said. “I felt comfortable with our girls back there. They are a little bit more unknown, but I had no doubt that they would be able to handle them.”1 comment on this story
Her Knights proved capable of handling the Titans and with the win advanced to the 6A state championship game.
“It’s been a long time (for Lone Peak),” Ray said. “I think this year has been so shocking, just how far we’ve come. We have had a really great season, just the relationships that we have. And we’ve never won a state championship, so I think we have even more of a drive to take state. We are going to have a heck of a game, it’ll be super stiff competition, but I think we can put up a good fight.”