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Mountain Crest barely avoids another round of PKs, wins 4A girls’ soccer title over Crimson Cliffs

Hyrum school wins in 2OT after both teams advanced to the championship on penalty kicks.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mountain Crest's Rhauli Barrera celebrates the win with teammate Summer Sofonia (13) during the 4A State Soccer Championship game between Mountain Crest High School and Crimson Cliffs High School, Oct. 22, 2021 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mountain Crest defeated Crimson Cliffs 1-0 in double overtime.

Summer Sofonia didn’t want to leave Mountain Crest High’s first shot at a state title in nearly a quarter century to chance.

“I was really nervous,” the freshman said. “I was like, I hope we win it in overtime, because otherwise we’re going into [penalty kicks] and I get really nervous going into PKs.”

The Mustangs had already been in that situation once within the previous 24 hours. Twice just might have traumatized them.

So, as the UHSAA girls’ 4A state soccer championship entered double overtime Friday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, the freshman seized her opportunity. With nine minutes left to play before PKs began, she stepped up to a free kick from 30 yards out and sent it sailing past the previously impenetrable Crimson Cliffs keeper for the game’s only score.

Penalty kicks avoided. Championship won.

It was Mountain Crest’s first girls’ soccer state title since 1998, when coach Amber Hyatt was 7.

“I knew, this team,” Hyatt, the head coach of the Hyrum school for the past five years, said. “If any team coming from Mountain Crest in the last couple years was going to make it here, this team was the one that was going to do it for us. Just from the beginning of the season, all the success we’ve been having. I’m glad it went our way.”

Crimson Cliffs (17-3) and Mountain Crest (17-2), located on the far north and south ends of the state, had never played each other. But they entered the championship the same way: by winning PK shootouts.

Crimson Cliffs, the top seed in 4A, edged No. 4 Skyview on PKs after they tied 1-1 in their semifinal at Juan Diego High. Later at the same site, No. 2 Mountain Crest, didn’t get on the board at all in its semi vs. No. 3 Ridgeline before winning on PKs.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mountain Crest celebrates their win at the 4A State Soccer Championship game between Mountain Crest High School and Crimson Cliffs High School, Oct. 22, 2021 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mountain Crest defeated Crimson Cliffs 1-0 in double overtime.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mountain Crest celebrates their win at the 4A State Soccer Championship game between Mountain Crest High School and Crimson Cliffs High School, Oct. 22, 2021 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mountain Crest defeated Crimson Cliffs 1-0 in double overtime.

Though the night ended in frustration for Crimson Cliffs, those Mustangs left feeling like they moved one step closer to bringing their first state trophy back to Washington.

The program played its first varsity season in 2019. A year later, it made it to the 4A semifinals, where it fell to eventual runner-up Ogden. After making its first finals appearance this season, the next move in its progression would be to win it all.

“I think they know they can give their all,” first-year coach Kat Esplin said. “I mean, we were right there. We got an unlucky call and that’s just the way it goes.”

Both teams started to feel their deadline looming with about 15 minutes to play in regulation and no goals on the scoreboard. That’s when the intensity of the chippiness and the play picked up.

The catalyst was a play in which Crimson Cliffs senior forward Jantzyn Losee collided with Mountain Crest keeper Dakota Andersen in front of her goal. After both girls spent a moment on the ground, Losee got up and strode away. Meanwhile Andersen, after a long conversation with the head referee, had to be temporarily replaced by sophomore Jade Harris.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mountain Crest's Addyson Sofonia comes behind Crimson Cliffs' Jaiden Nelson with a kick during the 4A State Soccer Championship game between Mountain Crest High School and Crimson Cliffs High School, Oct. 22, 2021 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mountain Crest defeated Crimson Cliffs 1-0 in double overtime.

A minute later, Mountain Crest had perhaps its best opportunity of the night. Senior firecracker Baylie Baldwin took a pass from Crystal Sadiez, juked her defender and got an up-close one-on-one with Crimson Cliffs senior keeper Ellie Nielsen. Baldwin put too much touch on the ball, though, and her low shot caromed off the right goalpost.

That was a microcosm of Mountain Crest’s entire second half. The team made six shots on goal to Climson Cliff’s two, and led in the category 10-3 for the game. Still, each shot ended the same way: Either the player couldn’t find her finesse or was foiled by Nielsen.

Just as she had in the semi, when she stopped three PKs to help her team advance to its first championship, Nielsen made several athletic saves Friday night. The most impressive of which might have been when she punched out a Hadli Barrera shot from the right end line.

“She’s amazing. I can’t imagine a better keeper in the state,” Esplin said. “She’s confident, strong, a good leader, just very reliable.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Crimson Cliffs' goalie Ellie Nielsen just misses Mountain Crest's Summer Sofonia's free kick during the 4A State Soccer Championship game between Mountain Crest High School and Crimson Cliffs High School, Oct. 22, 2021 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mountain Crest defeated Crimson Cliffs 1-0 in double overtime.

Mountain Crest’s defense mostly kept its keeper, senior Dakota Andersen, from having to do the same. Andersen made three stops, including two in the second half.

Sofonia’s goal came after an official called a Crimson Cliffs player for tripping fellow freshman Bentli Barrera.

Junior defender Brittney Egbert said it didn’t surprise her the goal came from a freshman because “we have a lot of them, so I knew it could be one.”

“I knew that we had it,” she said of the game. “I knew we just had to finish it, and we did.”

Correction: Oct. 23, 12:15 p.m. >> An earlier version of this article listed the incorrect athlete as the keeper who replaced Dakota Andersen for Mountain Crest after a collision. Jade Harris is the correct athlete.

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