It took a little time for the Ogden girls' soccer team to believe it could be a winner.
The players remember the moment as the second game of the year, against Northridge. The Class 3A Tigers earned a 4-2 victory over a Knights team that would go on to beat Brighton. The win was a refreshing change to a program that had taken a lot of losses the year before.
Coach Jason Steiner had seen the win coming before anyone else.
"That was when we first kind of discovered what we could do," midfielder Avery Calton said. "We had lost to Bonneville the game before, but we had been closer than in years past. Going into that Northridge game, we weren't going to play good and lose again."
It was the start of the most surprising turnaround in the state. A move from 4A down to 3A this year cannot account for an evolution from a 4-11 team that missed the playoffs to a 17-2 squad that won a championship. Ogden's first title in a decade was built by a tough and talented group of players, but Steiner was the one who had the vision and made the changes necessary to have a winning team.
"I think any team can do what we did this year, and we had some good talent to accommodate that," Steiner says. "It was just a matter of getting them to try and do what we needed them to do."
After serving as an assistant last season, Steiner took over the program this year and began to instill his own philosophies on the game. His plan consisted of an aggressive, attacking offense that would also run back to play defense and keep possession in the opponent's half of the field. Ideally, Ogden's defense wouldn't have to do too much work.
It required some prodding. In the Tigers' traditional set, there were not quite as many demands on the forwards as in Steiner's offense. That meant strikers and attacking midfielders would have to get used to running. A lot.
"We had to work on our fitness, definitely," forward Cassie Hanson says. "Coach is a big [Manchester United] fan, and he got this from them: We wanted to give other teams six seconds of hell by attacking, being pesky and just not giving up."
The tactical adjustments worked very well for Ogden, which led 3A with 77 goals but gave up only 10 all year. Many of the teams they faced were ill-suited for such pressure, and the squad's confidence in themselves grew.
But Steiner was also responsible for unifying the team in a way it had never thought of before. The coach added up the numbers on each player's jersey, coming up with a total of 497. That total, he explained, would represent how the sum of the team's parts was greater than any one piece.
It was a number the Tigers would go to in the most dramatic moments of the season in a shootout against Snow Canyon, in a tight semifinal against Park City, and the championship game against Cedar. Whenever they needed to draw upon some deeper part of themselves, the team would remember how valuable they were to each other.
"He would pull us aside at halftime and remind us there was nothing to worry about," Hanson says. "This number, 497, we wrote it on our legs during the playoffs. He would just tell us as long as we worked together and played for each other, everything would be fine."