DRAPER — For a team filled with freshmen, the RSL Academy sure knows how to settle in a match.
In a way, though, the Griffins are a freshmen team in their own right.
Playing in their first UHSAA state tournament, freshman Natalie Scott had a brace, and the Real Salt Lake Academy scored three goals in the second half to pull away from Parowan 4-0 in Thursday’s 2A semifinals.
"It's crazy. This team is incredible," Scott said. "It's big for our freshmen to represent the whole school the way we are."
Scott dribbled nonchalantly into the area, and lifted a ball into the back of the net to put the Griffins (11-1) up 1-0 less than six minutes into the match.
RSL goalkeeper Avy Galata made sure the shutout against the Rams (10-6-2) held until halftime, and then the Griffins unleashed their offense.
Scott scored her second goal 15 minutes after the break, and Taija Anderson scored off a set-piece opportunity three minutes later.
"We have a roster that is heavy with freshmen and sophomores, and a lot of kids that play mid-level club (soccer); they've probably never been in a championship environment before," said RSL Academy coach Becky Hogan, who leads the public charter school arm of Dell Loy Hansen's soccer facility in Herriman. "It makes you nervous. We kind of had to get that worked out.
"But they played great, got composure and then put the game away."
Mickey Pioquinto’s redirect of a nearside cross from Grace Fox with 12 minutes remaining made it 4-0, and the Griffins almost had a fifth when Pioquinto’s point-blank shot in the 79th minute was saved by the keeper.
It all added up to a trip to Rio Tinto Stadium, where RSL Academy will face Rowland Hall in the 2A championship match Saturday at 11 a.m. MDT at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"It's still Rio Tinto. We wear a version of the crest, and we represent that organization on that accessible high school level," Hogan said. "Dell Loy Hansen walks through our building every day. He supports the whole organization, right down to our lowest kid.
"We're really proud to be a part of RSL. I think it’s extra special for our kids."
Rowland Hall 2, Millard 0
In 35 years of coaching girls soccer, Rowland Hall coach Bobby Kennedy has seen a lot.
He might be OK with seeing what he saw Thursday a little less.
Anna Fukashima and Giselle Bodeen scored a goal in either half, but Rowland Hall never felt completely comfortable in a 2-0 win over Millard in a Class 2A state semifinal Thursday at Juan Diego.
"Goals change games, but I don’t think it really affected the game much," Kennedy said of Fukashima’s goal, which came just 11 minutes into the contest. "They were clearing them off the line on potential own goals, and we were hitting bars.
"We didn't do enough to pull them out of positions, so kudos to them. It was well done."
Credit goes to Millard goalkeeper Kylee Bartholomew, who frustrated the Winged Lions (14-2-1) at nearly every turn — including a remarkable save off the face in the 74th minute.
But the two-time defending 2A champions who all-but cruised to an 8-0 record in region play had few answers for a stingy defense in Millard (12-4-1) that allowed just 1.3 goals per game before Thursday’s semifinal.
The Winged Lions couldn’t find that second goal to secure the win until Bodeen raced down the right flank to put one over the line with 1:25 remaining.
"We knew they would work hard. We’ve seen them before," Kennedy said. "I don’t know why more games don’t do that more against us, to be fair. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world.
"I'm just disappointed that we didn't problem-solve a little better. It's still a big occasion for some kids, but I think no matter what we do to prepare, it’s still youth sport and you never really know."