It’s a dream every young athlete envisions — the clock running down, the title on the line, the outcome in your hands — and the closest of margins separating the champion from the runner-up.
"One play makes the difference," said Skyline senior Hillary Weixler.
Team to beat » Brighton is the defending state champion. The Bengals will return nine seniors and nine juniors for the upcoming season after graduating 11 seniors from last year’s team. They expect strong play especially from defenders Katie Brinkerhoff and McKell Kellogg. The Bengals have a lot of experience and talent, with several players having already committed to Division I and Division II teams. Coach Mark Stocker predicts all of his seniors will play at some level in college.
Player to watch » Hailey Skolmoski, a senior forward at Riverton, finished last year with 22 goals and 10 assists, according to Max Preps. She made the All-Tribune Team last year.
Sleeper » Davis will have a strong season after losing to Brighton in the quarterfinals. The Darts start just a handful of seniors, but one is Mattie Garlock, the team’s captain and a four-year starter who has committed to Weber State.
Team to beat » Skyline lost 1-0 to Timpanogos in the state title game last year. The Eagles have made it to the championship game two of the last three seasons (and reached the semifinals the other time). They are returning eight starters, including goalkeeper Hillary Weixler, forwards Jaslyn Masina and Holly Daugirda, and defenders Sara Weixler and Rachel Gordon. Coach Yamil Castillo said he has a complete team full of talented and experienced players hungry to finally win a ring.
Players to watch » Keep an eye out for high-scoring Skyline forwards Masina and Daugirda.
Sleepers » Clearfield has a solid all-around team, and lost to Skyline in quarterfinals last year.
Team to beat » Dixie is the defending 3A state champs after finishing 2013 with a 19-2-2 record. It’s ranked No. 9 in Utah according to maxpreps.com.
Players to watch » Aubri Challis, a junior forward at Dixie, finished with 18 goals last season. Snow Canyon midfielder Kyleigh Wittwer also is slated to have a big season for the Warriors.
Team to beat » Summit Academy knocked off Waterford, 2-1, in last year’s final and looks like a good bid to repeat.
Players to watch » Waterford senior forward Caroline Coats finished last season with 11 goals, as did Summit Academy senior forward Countney Shoell.
And who would know better than her?
This past spring, the Eagles’ girls’ basketball team — on which Weixler is the starting center — lost in the 4A title game, 42-40 to Springville, after missing a pair of free throws in the game’s final minute.
Last fall, Skyline’s girls’ soccer team — on which Weixler is the starting goalkeeper — lost in the 4A title game, 1-0 to Timpanogos, after the Timberwolves’ Katie Henderson snuck the game-winning goal past Weixler.
"I barely missed it," Weixler said, pointing to the spot where the ball grazed her arm.
In Weixler’s sophomore season, Skyline lost in the state semifinals. And in her freshman season came yet another title-game defeat.
Given the number of close calls she’s had, the All-State goalkeeper took last fall’s soccer defeat hard.
"Everyone makes mistakes, but when you are the goalie, it’s a little more noticeable," said the three-year soccer letterman, who has been playing the position since she was 7. "… I am the last line of defense. It had to go through a whole team before it gets to me, but I am the last line."
After all those disappointing finishes, though, Weixler is ready to prove she can get the job done.
She’s ready to win the big one.
"Defeat is always a hard thing to go through," Weixler said. "I felt the pain of the loss, but it’s passed."
She’ll have a good shot at it this season, as the Eagles return eight starters from a year ago. Unquestionably, though, the player she’s most glad to have back, fighting along with her, is twin sister Sara Weixler, who is back in action as a defender after a season-ending ACL injury a year ago.
Sara is plenty confident in her sister’s ability to finally break through.
"[Hillary] is ready," said Sara, who also plays basketball alongside her sister. "She has a good soccer IQ and good intuition. She wants to get a ring his year."
Head coach Yamil Castillo said he sees a difference is his keeper.
"She’s taking it more personal," Castillo said.
The coach believes the addition of Erica Owens — a two-year starting goalkeeper at BYU — to the coaching staff will be beneficial to the team as a whole and to Hillary Weixler specifically. In addition, he said the Eagles are a complete team filled with talented and experienced players.
"One thing about this team — there are no superstars," said Castillo, now in his fifth season at Skyline. "We can go far if we stay focused and take it one game at a time."
Weixler could be forgiven if she has one game in particular — the last one of the season — on her mind.
She’s finally ready to experience the other side of it.
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