In a game dominated by stingy defensive play, it may have seemed ironic that an offensive spurt midway through the second half proved to be the difference in the girls' 4A state soccer championships held at Westminster College Saturday afternoon.
The highly favored Brighton Bengals fought off a determined Alta Hawks team while posting a 2-1 victory. The girls' state championship, the first ever as an officially sanctioned high school sport in Utah, finished off a storybook season for the Bengals.Brighton, which finished with a 16-1 mark and some lofty national rankings (No. 10 in the country in one poll) avenged a 1-0 loss to the same Alta team earlier in the season.
"The key to the game today was our teamwork," elated Brighton Coach Kathy Kuhn explained. "There is a genuine love and dedication our players have for each other, and that was something you could see today."
The Bengals got on the scoreboard first as Joanna Barney made good on a free kick less than five minutes into the contest. Barney, who has been the catalyst for the Bengals all season, came into Saturday's game in the wake of an injury sustained in their 4-0 semifinal victory over Viewmont Friday.
"I dislocated my hip yesterday, but they popped it back into place and we taped it up for the game. I guess my adrenalin pretty much took care of it, but I'm sure it will be sore tomorrow," Barney said.
Following Barney's goal, both teams battled to keep their opponents away from the net for the remainder of the half. The Hawks, however, were stymied for much of the stanza and shots-on-goal were few and far between. Brighton, meanwhile, fired away, and were it not for a tremendous effort by Alta goalie Angie Jolley, things for the Hawks could have been worse.
In the second half, Alta picked up the offensive intensity and knotted the score when Stephanie Hubbard broke loose for a goal with 14:55 remaining in the contest.
The Hawks' accomplishment was short-lived, however, as Brighton stormed back to regain the lead less than a minute later when Missy Despain took a pass from Cassie Hughes to score.
Alta Coach Lee Mitchell, who guided his team to a 13-4-1 record, said his team suffered a letdown after scoring.
"After a goal is scored the tempo of the game always changes," Mitchell said. "It was just one of those things. The ball slipped out of the goalkeeper's hands. It's something that has never happened to her all year, and it just happened at a critical time. As far as I'm concerned she's one of the best, if not the best, goalkeepers in the state."
The victory over the Hawks gave Brighton a 2-1 advantage in the series, as the Bengals won the first meeting, 3-0, before the Hawks answered with their 1-0 triumph, putting the only mar on an otherwise flawless record.
"Yesterday our girls were cheering for Alta to win because they wanted to come back and prove a point," Kuhn said. "I think we proved that point today."