Alta proved true one of sports' famous sayings on Saturday: defense wins championships. Alta completed its run through the state playoffs without allowing a single goal, defeating Bingham 1-0 for its second 5A title in three years.
Coming into the game, everyone expected a defensive battle, and that is exactly what they got. Neither Alta nor Bingham had allowed a goal in its previous three playoff games.
Something had to give.
Goalkeepers Lynzee Lee of Alta and Ali Griffin of Bingham had been perfect. Griffin led all goalies with 14 shutouts on the year, and although Lee split time for most of the season, she had given up less than a half a goal a game in her time in the net.
The sweepers for the teams had organized their back lines to hardly allow a sniff at the net, let alone a goal. Beth Clifford led the Miners while Alyssa Lowry manned the position for the Hawks.
For nearly 60 minutes, the game went as expected with the defenses ruling. Alta clearly had the better chances but was unable to find the back of the net. Even going against a driving wind and rain, it was the Hawks who controlled the midfield and attacked the Bingham net in the first half, but a Lisa Crump shot that Griffin was just able to get a hand on to deflect off the crossbar was the closest either team came to scoring in the half.
"I felt the way we played we pretty much had the game under control," said Alta coach Lee Mitchell.
Alta continued to put pressure on the Miners' defense, but it was not until a sophomore substitute entered in the second half that she made the play of the game.
Hailey DeYoung scored the game's only goal when she took a pass from Whitney Feller in the 58th minute at the 18-yard line. She trapped the ball and fired a shot from just inside the penalty box. The ball found the upper-left corner of the net for the score.
"It was just awesome," said DeYoung of scoring the game-winning goal. "But it wasn't me, it was a whole team effort."
DeYoung began the season as a junior varsity goalkeeper for Alta after playing for Waterford as a freshman. Alta lost one of its star forwards, Katie Fellows, to a broken leg midway through the season, and it was DeYoung who the team began using while looking for a boost.
"When (Fellows) went down, Hailey just came in and stepped up for us," said Mitchell. "It is amazing how a sophomore has the game-winner like that. The same thing happened to us when we won in 1999. I guess that's why this is truly a team game."
Besides DeYoung's goal and the strong defensive effort put forth by the Hawks, it was the play of the midfielders who dictated the play and won the game for Alta. Katie Larkin, Mary Staples, Feller and the combination of Callie Clark and Katie Clark controlled the midfield. Larkin and Feller directed things from the middle and created nice transitions from defense to offense, moving the entire team as a unit up the field.
The win capped off a trying season for the Hawks, who besides losing Fellows for the year had ambulances come for teammates on two other occasions.
"We went through a lot together," said Larkin. "We had a lot of trials, but we came through in the end. It's just amazing to end your year winning a state title."