The 2021 6A girls soccer champions will be the first title for whoever takes the win.
Second seed Riverton and fifth seed Skyridge each won their respective semifinal matchups Tuesday at Juan Diego High school, setting the stage for each team to compete for a state title for the first time in program history on Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Both games required extra time to determine the winner.
The earlier matchup between Skryidge and Syracuse not only required extra time, but a penalty shootout as well, which Skyridge won 4-1, leaving coach Toby Peterson feeling very emotional.
“These girls are so resilient in everything that they’ve done,” Peterson said, choking back tears. “This is just another example. They don’t quit, they fight through.”
That resiliency was present when Skyridge lost both its starting center backs, Alexa Balls and Kylee Phillips, to injury during the game, requiring players to shuffle around and play other positions they were unfamiliar with.
Though the Falcons noticeably lost a step following the injuries, they never conceded a lead to the Titans despite being put under constant pressure by Syracuse’s attack.
One of Skyridge’s conceded goals came off an own-goal thanks to a dangerous cross by Abby Schofield and the other was scored by Cortney Cobabe, who drilled a brilliant finish from 18 yards out.
The Falcons never trailed despite conceding the goals, dishing out a response to every punch Syracuse landed. Senior Olivia Barlow and Freshman Kalena Bellini were the goal scorers for Skyridge.
When the game remained knotted after both overtime periods, Peterson was confident that his team was prepared for the penalty shootout to come.
“We knew (a shootout) was going to be a possibility,” Peterson said. “So for the last three weeks we’ve been working on PKs, just to make sure that we have them down. We gave our keeper lots of opportunities to see a PK and to be able to read them, and so you obviously saw the results (of that practice.)”
“These girls are so resilient in everything that they’ve done. This is just another example. They don’t quit, they fight through.” — Skyridge coach Toby Peterson
It remains to be seen if the Falcons will have Balls and Phillips available in Friday’s championship match, but they do know who their opponent will be, as a golden goal from Riverton’s Erin Naylor was scored in the first period of overtime in the Tuesday’s second 6A semifinal match between the Silverwolves and the Layton Lancers.
“I just feel so happy and so excited,” Riverton coach Paul Moizer said. “(My players) have been a bundle of energy all year and it’s so great to see them this happy.”
After conceding the game’s opening goal in the 65th minute to Layton star forward Erin Bailey, the Silverwolves equalized with a goal of their own four minutes later, as Taylor O’Farrell sent a ball toward goal that awkwardly ended up in the back of the net.
The score remained 1-1 at the end of the second half, but Moizer said he was confident heading into the overtime period because he knew his team was on the front-foot.
“Toward the end of (regulation) we had started to put pressure on them,” Moizer said. “I felt that was going to continue and it did throughout overtime.”
Both coaches said while their teams will take the time to celebrate punching their tickets to Rio Tinto, the focus will quickly turn to their final opponent of the season as they attempt to make history for their respective schools.
“From the very beginning of the season we’ve been saying that getting to the state championship and bringing home the trophy was our No. 1 goal,” Peterson said. “The message to the girls is going to be, ‘celebrate this today, but tomorrow we’ve got more work to do.’ ... If we stay focused and we keep our head on our shoulders, I think we can do it.”
Friday’s 6A championship match at Rio Tinto will kick off at 11 a.m.