"My senior year, coming back like this and making it to Rio Tinto, it just amazes me that the whole team has stayed together and this could end up being our best year yet," Smith said. "We are so excited, it just means so much to me that everyone is so confident and happy about going to the state final."
Going up against a one-loss defending champion in Skyline, the thought was that the Thunderbirds would have been lucky to even stay in the game against one of the tournament's top seeds. But senior defender and captain Jayne Schiess felt like her team had worked too hard and too long to settle for a semifinal berth.
"We've been practicing all season, working so hard all year," Schiess said. "We have a solid defense and we just keep pushing through the tough times."
Thanks to an outstanding second-half performance from goalkeeper Marren Nielsen and the Timpview backline, Schiess and company can boast that they were the only team this season to shut out the high-flying Eagles offense.
"I think our communication was really good today," Schiess said. "Our positioning was solid, we really connected with each other, we knew when to drop and when to connect passes to the offense. Having good team chemistry really helps that flow."
The flow from defense to offense turned out to be the difference maker for the Thunderbirds as several of Timpview's best chances came off the counterattack. Deep passes from the defensive third of the field led to two of Smith's three goals while another pass from the backline led to a midfield breakaway from Alyssa Spackman, who finished off the match with a goal of her own.
The 5-0 demolition of Skyline gave the Thunderbirds their second consecutive victory against a top seed after having defeated top-seeded Bonneville 3-1 in the second round. Timpview coach Eric Brady said that playing against top competition like Alta in Region 7 really prepared his team for the rigors of the state tournament.
"I think that attests to our region; we've been in battles," Brady said. "Our whole motto this year has been 'Let your heart rule your mind.' Fear is in the mind, but love for yourself and for your teammates is in the heart. When we make mistakes, don't get down on yourselves. It's really paid off as the year has gone on."
Now fresh off of their best performances of the season, Brady said that depth and overall strength of this year's squad make them a dangerous team when they take the field at Rio Tinto Stadium Friday for the 4A state title.
"The first half I subbed all but two starters, so we can just keep coming in waves. There's so much competition between the girls just to get on the field — our girl who scored a hat trick didn't even start. You've got all of those girls competing all year and we kept improving every game — we're peaking now going into state."
East 2, Woods Cross 1
East capped off a late comeback and beat Region 5 adversary Woods Cross for the first time this season thanks to two goals from sophomore Emily Jensen.
Woods Cross opened the scoring in the 18th minute when junior Camryn Henson struck a curling shot that sneaked past East goalkeeper Summer Garn.
Jensen equalized for the Leopards in the 46th minute with some fancy footwork in front of goal before firing from 6 yards and scoring easily. Jensen then saved the best for last as she slotted a tight-angled shot across the face of goal and in at the far post in the closing seconds to give her team their first win over Woods Cross after suffering two losses to the Wildcats in region play.