Last year the Skyline Eagles were swept by their bitter rival Olympus, losing the two games by an aggregate score of 5-1.
This year, the story sounds a whole lot different.
With a 3-0 win in Thursday’s prime-time matchup between the Eagles and the Titans, Skyline brought out brooms of their own, sweeping the season series with Olympus by a combined score of 7-0. The sweep of their rival was the first for the Eagles since 2018.
“These games are really emotional, they’re super high intensity and both teams always want to win so bad, but when both teams want it just as bad, the better team will win and I think we were the better team this year,” Skyline senior and team captain Ali Swensen said.
Not only are the Eagles better than their rival this year, but they may be better than any team that has come through Skyline in over a decade. Head coach Yamil Castillo said this year’s squad has without doubt been one the best teams he has coached in his 12-year tenure at Skyline.
“I’ve been here for 12 years and this has been the most talented group of players,” Castillo said. “The way they play together and for each other … it’s just a different level.”
Rankings back up what Castillo says, as Max Preps has the Eagles ranked as the No. 1 team in the state of Utah.
Though carrying the label as the best team in the state, things didn’t come easily for the Eagles in the first half, as Olympus defended with a purpose and made it difficult for Skyline to get on the board. But with just under three minutes to play in the half, Skyline sophomore Jenna Nichols recorded her first goal of the season, delivering a gut-punch to an Olympus team that worked hard to keep the score level through most of the opening 40 minutes.
Castillo said he knew it was important that his team recorded a goal in the opening half or else momentum would shift toward Olympus. As a result, Castillo made a tactical change by sending an extra forward onto the pitch for the final minutes of the half, resulting in the goal.
“They held us for a really long time during the first half,” Swensen said. “I was worried that if we didn’t get a goal in the first half then they would’ve gained momentum given that (Olympus) is a second half team. So I thought it was cool that we were able to get one (in the first half) and then keep scoring in the second half because they’re a strong team.”
Both second half goals were scored by Skyline’s Lily Boyden. The first came 11 minutes into the second half as Swensen picked out her teammate in the top-center of the 18-yard box and Boyden buried the shot to make it 2-0 for the Eagles.
Just 19 seconds later, Boyden found herself with the ball on the break, maneuvering around the charging keeper and delivering a brilliant, open-net goal to increase Skyline’s advantage to three.
The goals were the 23rd and 24th of the season for Boyden, good for third most in the state. Boyden, who decided to just play club during her first two years of high school, was convinced by fellow Skyline players to come out and play for the Eagles during her senior year.
“I was trying so bad to get her to come and play before the season started because I knew she could contribute and take on anybody,” Swensen said of Boyden. “I pestered her every day, texted her saying stuff like, ‘So when are you coming to tryouts?’ and ‘Practices are this day and this day,’ so I’m so glad she came and played.”
Boyden said she is also happy with her decision to play for her school.
“I think it was a great decision,” Boyden said. “I’ve had so much fun playing for Skyline soccer. It’s such a different environment, all the girls have been so welcoming and it’s just been really fun so I’m very glad I came out and played my senior year.”
Castillo had high praises for his one-year wonder in Boyden after the match, citing her ability to not just score goals, but facilitate them as well.
“Lily is an incredible athlete and it’s too bad she didn’t help us the other three years,” Castillo said jokingly. “She came as a senior, but she immediately made a difference with her skill level and passing, it elevated everyone else. That’s the thing that has impressed me the most is that she’s also one of the top assist leaders in the state, too. She scores and she’s great at finding the open player.”
The result moved the Eagles to 12-0 on the season, but with the final stretch of the regular season upon them, they know things will only get more difficult from this point forward.
“We have to remind ourselves not to be cocky even though we’ve had a great season,” Boyden said. “We have to keep doing what we’re doing, stay focused in practice and not underestimate any team if we want to keep going the direction we’re headed.”
Castillo and his staff gave the Skyline players shirts that say “Together” on them in hopes to remind his team that staying and playing together will be the most important thing for them come playoff time.
“They just have to keep playing together,” Castillo said. “The goal was to win region and then go to Rio Tinto and that is still the ultimate goal. There’s a lot of good teams out there, but 12-0 is a pretty good season so far. So if we can keep everybody healthy, I think we’re in the right spot.”