DRAPER — The Lone Peak girls soccer team is back in the 5A state championship game — again. For the third straight year, the Knights are heading to the finals after a stunning 3-2 win over Brighton on Tuesday.
A pair of first-half goals by Shantel Flanary and a Mindy Vawdrey penalty kick in the dying moments sealed the semifinal win, earning Lone Peak a rematch of last year's championship game.
"I'm just so tickled that these guys have gotten this far," said Lone Peak coach Mike LaHargoue.
More surprising than the result was the way Lone Peak beat favored Brighton. The Knights spent most of the game defending from their own half of the field and were badly outshot. But, they took advantage of their chances and were the first team this year to score three goals on the Bengals.
"I'm not going to lie. Brighton controlled most of the game," said Flanary. "We didn't really play the style that we usually play. Somehow we pulled it out."
The momentum of the game swung on Lone Peak goals at the beginning and end of the first half.
Just after the game kicked off, Flanary slipped open in the box and scored to give Lone Peak the early lead. Brighton equalized in the 38th minute, but less than 60 seconds later, Elena Drake crossed a ball in to Flanary, who dropped a high-arching header into the net off the goalkeeper's glove. That gave the Knights a 2-1 lead at halftime.
"The coach told us that Brighton would come out really hard," said Flanary. "We were just hoping to match that intensity in the beginning. Luckily, we were able to score. And, it was really important to get the momentum back going into the half."
Brighton's first equalizing goal was scored on a 40-yard shot that was bobbled by goalkeeper Raven King into the net. The sophomore keeper had some anxious moments in the first half but, along with the rest of the defense, shook off the nerves and played well in the last 40 minutes.
"For her first year I'm really proud of what she's doing," said LaHargoue. "She had one mistake, and that was it. I thought we played a lot better in the second half. I'm sure a lot of that had to do with nerves."
In the second half, the Bengals kept pressing without much luck until they got an equalizer in the 67th minute. Ashley Askwig headed in Stephanie Verdoia's cross, and the game looked headed for overtime.
In the 78th minute, however, Flanary made a run on a counter-attack and drew a foul in the box. The referee pointed to the spot, and Vawdrey buried the ensuing penalty kick for the winning goal.
"When I saw it go in I think I was more relieved," said Vawdrey. "To know I didn't miss that obvious opportunity — I knew my teammates were counting on me."
Lone Peak will face powerhouse Alta in Saturday's championship game. Last year, the Knights lost in the finals to the Hawks, 4-2.