SANDY — It would have been completely understandable for Lone Peak head coach Shantel Jolley to be nervous ahead of the 6A state championship game — played Friday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium — between her Knights and the Layton Lancers.
After all, she went to three state title matches as a player at Lone Peak, only to come short each and every time.
“I was telling them just the other day how much it sucks to lose in the finals, with my experience at Lone Peak,” Jolley said. “I tried to tell them just how special it would be, if they could be the ones to finally make history in a program I have wanted to since I was a player 10-12 years ago.”
Lone Peak had never won a state championship in girls soccer, despite four legitimate opportunities.
“I was involved in playing for three of them and lost all three of them and five years ago they played Davis in the final and lost,” Jolley said.
Even still, Jolley and her team believed they could be the ones to break through.
“We were confident. I knew the talent level we have and how hard they work,” Jolley said.
The Knights proved their coach right.
Lone Peak defeated the Layton Lancers 1-0 and earned the first girls soccer title in school history.
“It is great,” said Jolley. “I think it might a be a little more special as a coach than it is a player. It is undescribable.”
Making the feeling all the better?
Layton gave the Knights everything they could handle.
That was readily apparent in the first half of the contest, as the Lancer and Knights battled back-and-forth for nearly forty minutes, with neither side making headway at all.
If anything, in the first half at least, Layton looked to be the team primed to breakaway.
“Layton definitely made me nervous in the first half,” Jolley said. “Maybe we were a little too confident coming in. Credit to Layton, for how hard they worked. I was surprised with how hard they played, they made it really difficult for us”
Things appeared destined to remain scoreless through regulation, or at the very least the first half, until Ella Neumarker struck.
Standing alone at the top of the box, Neumarker was in perfect position to intercept a Layton clearance 37 minutes in, and she made good on her chance, beating Layton keeper Meg Edwards.
“The ball just spun out, I took a touch and hit it,” Neumarker said. “I have been waiting to take that shot all season and it happened. It felt so good. I told all the wingers I could make that shot and I finally got the chance. I just made it.”
The scoring opportunity wasn’t a happy accident, however. It was simply business as usual for the Knights.
“Our style, how the girls play, is get down to the endline and find a cross in,” Jolley said. “Ella was in the exact spot she was supposed to be in. With our game we expect, we plan for that to happen.”
Lone Peak was mere inches away from adding a second goal moments later when Jocelyn Bybee broke free in the box, but her offering dribbled just wide right.
The Knights took a 1-0 lead into the break, and coming out were more than confident they would prevail, if for one simple reason — their back line.
“I think our defensive line is super strong,” said Neumarker. “Our center backs and our wings are really strong. I have complete trust in them.”
“I have felt comfortable with our girls back there all year,” Jolley added.
The group, headlined by Emma Jenkins, Avory Smith, Addy Symonds and Emry Berry, was excellent against the Lancers and as a result Layton was able to muster just one threatening shot on goal in the second half, an attempt by Brooklyn Pritchett.
Lone Peak goalkeeper Mckayla Wetsel was more than up to the task on that try and on the few other occasions in which Layton threatened.Comment on this story
The Knights offense wasn’t completely stymied in the second half, Bybee had multiple shots on goal, but ultimately the single score was all Lone Peak needed.
“I think we should have gotten more but we won so that is all that matters,” Neumarker said. “It feels so good. I am so happy. I was so nervous, I had butterflies in my stomach, but once the whistle blew I was so happy.”
“It is huge. It is a part of history,” added Jolley. “I think we are one of the last sports at Lone Peak, a school that is known for winning state titles, to finally get one. It is nice to be a part of that prestige.”