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High school 5A soccer championship: Three-peat especially sweet for Alta

Alta coach Lee Mitchell gets dowsed by his team after Hawks beat Brighton 2-0 to claim their third 5A soccer championship in a row.
Alta coach Lee Mitchell gets dowsed by his team after Hawks beat Brighton 2-0 to claim their third 5A soccer championship in a row.
Jason Olson, Deseret News

DRAPER — It stung when Alta suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of Brighton. What hurt most for the Hawks was not seeing a perfect record go out the window but seeing why it occurred.

A defense that had made scoring goals a foreign concept for most opponents had coughed up three big ones against the Bengals.

Such an occurrence was something the Alta defense decided it could not tolerate.

"From that day, we decided we would never be outworked by a team again," senior defender Natalie Norris said.

A renewed sense of purpose on defense led to one of the finest postseason runs in the annals of 5A girls soccer. Alta claimed its third consecutive state title with a 2-0 victory over Brighton at Juan Diego High on Saturday afternoon.

Perhaps it was fitting that the Hawks earned their sixth straight shutout against the team that started it all. The Bengals spurred a change for the better when they handled Alta so easily on their home field in that earlier 3-2 loss.

"That feeling was terrible," senior defender Morgan Bridge said. "We didn't want it to happen again. We weren't going to get scored on."

The Hawks did everything that they needed to in order to hold Brighton in check. Tashia Long came up with one timely save after another. Bridge and Norris played key roles in a tag team effort to blanket dangerous scorers like Jessica Ringwood and Stephanie Verdoia.

They did an excellent job at eliminating their scoring chances. At one point in the second half, Ringwood dribbled around in the penalty area trying to find a crease to take a shot. Four Hawks converged on her as she released the ball. Ringwood got a shot, but it hooked to the left and bounced past the post.

On offense, Kealia Ohai made such efforts pay off by scoring both Alta goals. On a smaller scale, she mirrored what her older sister Megan did in 2006 when she put in all four goals scored in the title game to beat Lone Peak.

Ohai made it 1-0 in the 33rd minute when she penetrated the penalty area and found an angle parallel to the right post for an open look. The junior forward drilled it toward the left post and buried the ball in the lower left corner of the net.

Her second goal came in the 55th minute when Ohai completed a breakaway by curling the ball inside the left post.

"It was nothing like Megan's four goals," Ohai said. "But it's still pretty good."

It seemed fitting that Ohai ended up being a difference-maker on offense in the championship game. She had been the Hawks' biggest scoring threat all season and for good reason.

"She never gives up," Alta coach Lee Mitchell said. "If you give her an inch, you better forget about it because she'll make you pay for it."

Last year, the Hawks became the first girls soccer team to win consecutive 5A titles. Now Alta has added another chapter in its growing soccer dynasty by becoming the first 5A team to make it three straight.

"We made history last year and we wanted to do it again," Bridge said.


E-mail: jcoon@desnews.com