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High school soccer: Titans pull off shocking upset in 4A tourney

SHARE High school soccer: Titans pull off shocking upset in 4A tourney

OREM — Before a ball had been kicked in this year's 4A boys soccer tournament, there were few people around the state who believed that the Olympus Titans could knock off mighty Mountain View.

Not in the first round.

And definitely not on Mountain View's home field.

After all, the Bruins were the defending 4A champs, had been ranked No. 1 for most of the season and had a great cast of characters and an amazing coaching staff who all knew how to win in the playoffs.

But the Titans believed in themselves.

Unshaken by the fact that they were facing one of Utah's premier programs on the road in the opening round, Olympus' players simply went out and gave as good as they got.

The Titans found ways to battle and battle and battle with Mountain View, and after the game couldn't be decided by 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, Olympus came up trumps in the ensuing shootout.

Olympus' Ben Hopkins, Alex Scott, Graham Gibbs and Kameron Harper were all money from the penalty spot, and the Titans emerged with a 4-1 shootout victory Wednesday afternoon after the game had finished in a 1-1 draw.

"This," said Olympus sweeper Max Shaw," is awesome."

It seemed that Olympus' chances at a big upset were going to be dashed after Mountain View star Sam Hickman equalized for the Bruins in the 80th minute — a little more than 60 seconds after Scott had scored for Olympus — but the Titans held their nerves over two overtime sessions and eventually won in a shootout.

"It was a gutsy performance by this varsity group. It just was," said Olympus coach Chris Sonntag. "They had confidence in themselves, which no one else did. I mean, no one called this. But I think you can see the game was even all day — everyone had their moments — and I'm just proud as can be of them."

"My boys decided," added Sonntag, 'Why not us?'"

Sonntag said the biggest challenge with this group of Titans — aside from being banged up for most of the year — has been to get them to believe in themselves.

But they cleared believed in themselves on Wednesday, and they came up with a huge upset.

Following 100 minutes of intense soccer, Wednesday's contest was decided from the penalty spot. And amidst the nerve-jangling pressure that inevitably accompanies such a situation, Olympus was flawless.

Olympus went first in the shootout, and Hopkins, Scott, Gibbs and Harper were all clutch with their kicks.

In between their penalties, Olympus goalie Zeke Badger made a huge save on Mountain View's first penalty, which was taken by Sam Hickman, and then Mountain View missed its third penalty, which opened the door for Harper to win it with what was Olympus' fourth kick.

And Harper left no doubt, as he placed his shot right into the corner before being mobbed by his joyous teammates.

"We've been practicing them all week, and they just didn't crack under pressure," said Shaw.

Harper's clutch penalty capped a tight and intense affair that saw both teams battle from start to finish.

It seemed as if Olympus was on the path to victory when Scott drilled home the apparent game-winner off the crossbar in the 79th minute, but Hickman responded for Mountain View with a free kick from the right side just seven seconds before the end of normal time.

Olympus then held on in overtime before the shootout arrived.

After losing to Mountain View in last year's quarterfinals, Olympus determined it would try to flood the midfield this time around, as Sonntag employed a 3-5-2 formation.

That move seemed to help Olympus limit Mountain View's offensive chances, but the Bruins nonetheless still found ways to nearly come out on top.

Afterward, Sonntag couldn't say enough about the team his guys had just beaten.

"All the credit in the world to Mountain View," said Sonntag. "What a program. What great kids. They're very talented, and Mark (Graham) is a great coach. I give all the credit to them in the world. They played their hearts out."

So, too, did Olympus, and the Titans won the lottery of the shootout to advance to Friday's quarterfinals, where they'll face Bonneville at 4 p.m.

e-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com