WOODS CROSS — When the Highland High girls soccer team wanted to sport black-and-white-striped, prison-style jerseys this season, head coach Brad Kooyman was reluctant of his team’s fashion choice.
However, with just four games remaining in the regular season, the Rams are now undefeated when donning their pin-striped uniforms, including a key 1-0 road win over second-place Woods Cross Tuesday afternoon, and Kooyman has finally bought in to the superstition as they continue their playoff push.
“Our girls wanted to go back to the Highland convict roots, like that old prison that was there,” laughed Kooyman. “So they picked these lovely stripes (for us) and now we are undefeated on the road. We have not lost in these stripes.”
After their season-opening, four-game winning streak was snapped by the Wildcats (8-4-0, 7-3-0) just four weeks ago, the Rams (8-2-1, 7-2-1) had circled Tuesday’s rematch between the two Region 6 powerhouses on their calendars to provide them with some extra incentive.
“They made us look silly in that second half,” Kooyman said of the first matchup. “I mean, they really made us look silly, so we really focused on this game. We knew it was going to be tough, and we knew we would have to change some things.”
Highland came out and completely controlled the tempo by slowing down the high-octane Woods Cross offense and sticking to its new game plan.
After a scoreless first half, the Rams kept up the intensity in the second half with their swarming defense to gain some momentum over an obviously frustrated Wildcat squad.
The strong defensive effort from Highland, anchored by Haley Archuletta and April Owens, kept the dangerously explosive Woods Cross offense at bay until its dominant defense could ignite its offense.
Archuletta locked down Woods Cross’ prolific scorer, Kennedy Yost (18 goals), all game long, while Owens came up with several clutch saves down the stretch to record her sixth shutout of the season.
Woods Cross had plenty of chances to get on the board in the final 20 minutes, but Highland’s perfectly executed game plan and superb clock management helped the Rams hang on for the pivotal region win.
“That game was a battle and it was huge for us and the region standings,” Kooyman said. “We kind of changed our game plan and defended for what we saw last game, and the girls just executed perfectly. They left nothing on the field. It was a great game.”
With the win, Highland switches places with Woods Cross and now sits in second place behind Region 6-leading Clearfield.
The Rams will next take on Kearns on Thursday afternoon before closing out the regular season with region battles against Clearfield, East and Judge Memorial.
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724