The 2A girls soccer tournament continued this week, with semifinal games getting underway Thursday at Juan Diego High School. The first game saw No. 1 Rowland Hall handle business against No. 4 American Heritage, beating the Patriots 6-2. No. 2 Waterford took down No. 6 Millard 8-0 in the second game of the evening, setting the stage for Saturday’s state title game.

Rowland Hall used a balanced attack to defeat American Heritage. Summer Connery scored three goals, Zakrie Smith scored two, and Paige Connery scored one to send the Winged Lions back to the final, where they will be looking to win a fifth straight 2A championship. 

“I think last year I felt more pressure than I do this year just in the sense that now it’s more about us as a team just working, getting better every day and then the wins will come, the goals will come as long as we just work together as a team,” Rowland Hall’s head coach Colette Smith said about her team’s championship streak. “It’s all about the girls. Just them having fun, performing and believing in themselves.” 

Rowland Hall will need more than belief when it takes on a high scoring Waterford team. The Ravens are playing their best soccer, having outscored tournament opponents 16-0 heading into the state final. 

Millard can attest to Waterford’s goal scoring abilities. The Millard defense that propelled a 1-0 upset victory over Parowan and sent the Eagles into Thursday night’s meeting with the Ravens was cracked less than two minutes into the match. Seven Castain quickly found the back of the net for Waterford, marking the first goal scored against Millard during the 2A tournament. It would be far from the last as Castain and company would add on to their advantage en route to a 5-0 halftime lead. 

Raven head coach Kimi Miyashima showered praises on Castain, who ended the night with four goals. “She’s been consistent. She’s been finishing. She is the definition of dedication,” Miyashima said. “What people don’t see is she’s up in the offseason lifting weights at 5 a.m. She’s training on any off day. On Sundays, when we have a day off, she’s working on her shooting; she’s working on her fitness.”

Miyashima has worked with her entire team to make sure they are physically fit. “We’ve spent a lot of time on technique and fitness,” she said. “Keeping things clean, playing to feet, and then finding the opportunities to get in behind teams has been our bread and butter. Then finishing has been awesome for this squad.”

Waterford will have to play to its strengths in order to end Rowland Hall’s championship reign. The two schools are well acquainted, having faced one another in three of the last five state title games. But the familiarity doesn’t end there, with the rivals competing in the same region where the Winged Lions got the best of the Ravens twice already this year.

“There’s a little bit of that Waterford-Rowland Hall rivalry across the board,” Miyashima said. “They’re a very similar school to us just in Salt Lake City. They also have some club girls that our players play against, so they’re starting to pick up on how each other plays. It’s really just going to be a good game and a battle.”

That battle for the 2A state title is set to kickoff Saturday at 5 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.