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SANDY — Snow Canyon’s juniors were all over the field Saturday during the Class 4A state title match at Rio Tinto Stadium.
But the state title hopes — one that had eluded the Warriors on three-straight occasions — rested on its seven-player senior class.
Heidi Smith scored the only goal of the match in extra time to lead Snow Canyon to its first state championship since 2012 with a 1-0 victory over Orem.
“Without our seniors, this group doesn’t do what they do,” said Snow Canyon coach Kenny Kunde, who also led the Warriors to the 2012 3A title. “That senior group has been leaders, captains and mentors for these younger kids.
“When you talk about program-building, that’s the kind of stuff that we want to do.”
Goalkeeper Megan Rodgers made two saves to earn the shutout for Snow Canyon (15-1-3), which won the Region 9 title with a 10-0-2 record.
Again, another junior.
But even the players agree — this one was for the Class of 2019.
“We’ve been here four years in a row; I’ve been here for three years, since I was a freshman, and I’ve been here with these seniors since their sophomore year. They are like sisters to me,” said Smith, a junior who scored her 21st goal of the season. “We have this special bond I can’t explain … We love each other, and we have worked our butts off all summer. It finally happened, and this was all I wanted for them.”
Snow Canyon’s Ashley Brindley had the best chance of the first half, but her left-footed attempt from the edge of the penalty area was saved in the 17th minute of the scoreless opening 40 minutes.
Orem (16-5-1) put a ball in the back of the net with about eight minutes remaining, but was incensed when the score was called back for offsides.
The Tigers absorbed Snow Canyon’s pressure during the second half, but Taye Raymond had a golden opportunity at goal with just over three minutes remaining.
After Serina Tuisavura defended her second Warrior breakaway in the last 10 minutes, the defender starter a counter attack that ended with Raymond’s well-placed shot from the edge of the area that caromed off the crossbar in the 77th minute as both sides played to a scoreless regulation.
“We thought we played a really good second half, the ball was on their side of the field a lot. But our kids were just exhausted,” Kunde said.
After Rodgers cleared a dangerous Orem chance in overtime, Rachel Durante led a brilliant counter attack as the Warriors pushed for the match-winner. The junior finished off the break with a pinpoint cross directly into the path of Smith, who slotted home the easy finish in the middle of the goal five minutes into the extra session.
“If I shanked it, I felt like I was going to kill myself,” Smith quipped. “It was such a relief; all that practice finally paid off.”
“The girl who made the run on the left sideline was one of those fresh legs. We were glad she got the opportunity to do what she’s been working on all year long.”
Snow Canyon sneaked into the championship with a 2-1 win over Logan, the Region 12 champ that entered the playoffs with a 14-1 overall record and considered by many to be the favorite.
But when the dust settled at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Region 9 champs found themselves on top of 4A.
“We were knocking at the door, but we had the shots. We just couldn’t finish them,” Smith said. “I just think today was getting frustrating, but it was such a relief when it finally happened. We didn’t get angry with each other or anything; we stayed together, and I’m just glad we were able to finish.”