There always seemed to be one more hill to climb, or just a little bit left coming around the bend. It felt that way for the Hillcrest soccer team this season as it could just not quite reach the high preseason expectations placed upon it.
The Huskies were an up-and-down team this season, not quite what one would expect with so much experience and talent.
"I think our experience can carry us," said coach Martin Villegas during the preseason. "We have experience from the bench to the starters. They have been learning how to win and play better as a team, and that will just continue to get better as the year goes on."
The continuity that every team needs to be successful never materialized. Hillcrest finished the season 7-8-1 with a first-round loss to Lone Peak. The Huskies never put together a winning streak of more than two games, but on the bright side, they never lost more than two consecutive games, either. Just a look at the region season speaks volumes about how the season went for the club.
The team split the season with both Skyline and Jordan while dropping both games to first-place Alta. The Huskies can smile with the fact that they managed a draw with eventual state champion Brighton and a closely contested 1-0 loss and a sweep over Taylorsville. The splits with Skyline and Jordan both had losses on the road while wins at home, signs of a team not quite over the hump.
Hillcrest will have some work to do next season replacing the offense of departing all-state senior Rebecca Riddle. She led the team with 17 goals, but the drop-off to the No. 2 scorer was dramatic as Nicole Lynch and Briana Bush each had more than 10 goals fewer in the scoring column. Riddle's play at times carried the team.
"Ever since her freshman year, she has always been unselfish and a hard worker. She goes the extra mile, always, and I never have to tell her what to do. She goes 100 percent even in practice," said Villegas. "She is very fast, but the thing about her speed is she knows exactly how to use it. She changes her speeds all the time, and it makes her very difficult to defend."
Riddle at times carried the team, but the reliance on one player also took its toll. If an opponent could stop Riddle, Hillcrest struggled to score. Besides finding ways to put the ball in the net, Hillcrest will also have some big holes to fill in the back.
Holly Smith and Whitney Firth have been staples at the back of the Huskies' defense for four years. Their solid defense will be missed as the team will look to replace the four-year starters. The defense, and the great play of keeper Kelsie Akre, yielded just over two goals a game, and if Hillcrest is to remain competitive in tough Region 2, it will need to maintain or lower that number.
Building a program is hard, but Villegas and his staff seem to be just on the verge of getting over the ridge. The team continues to be competitive and make the playoffs, but it wants to get to the next level and win a couple of games once there. To look back on the 2005 season, it is one that the glass was both half-full and half-empty. For the Huskies, they're hoping in 2006 that maybe a little could spill over the top.
Hillcrest soccer results
Aug. 11 Hillcrest 10, West Jordan 1 WIN
Aug. 16 Lone Peak 4, Hillcrest 1 LOSS
Aug. 18 Hillcrest 3, Waterford 1 WIN
Aug. 23 Hillcrest 6, Kearns 1 WIN
Aug. 26 Springville 4, Hillcrest 3 LOSS
Aug. 30 Jordan 3, Hillcrest 2 LOSS
Sept. 1 Hillcrest 3, Taylorsville 0 WIN
Sept. 7 Hillcrest 2, Brighton 2 (2OT) TIE
Sept. 9 Skyline 3, Hillcrest 0 LOSS
Sept. 13 Alta 4, Hillcrest 0 LOSS
Sept. 15 Hillcrest 2, Jordan 0 WIN
Sept. 20 Hillcrest 8, Taylorsville 0 WIN
Sept. 22 Brighton 1, Hillcrest 0 LOSS
Sept. 29 Hillcrest 4, Skyline 3 WIN
Oct. 4 Alta 8, Hillcrest 0 LOSS
5A FIRST ROUND
Oct. 11 Lone Peak 2, Hillcrest 0 LOSS