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Keeping it fun: How Bonneville girls soccer team isn’t dwelling on its snake-bit past

One of the winningest programs in recent years but without a state title to show for it, the Lakers are focusing on the process in 2022 — and on having fun

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Lehi and Bonneville compete in a 5A girls soccer semifinal game at Juan Diego in Draper on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

There’s nothing surprising about Bonneville’s undefeated start to the girls soccer season. It’s a talent-rich program with 49 combined victories over the previous three seasons, and a team that also returns two of its top three goal scorers from a year ago.

Bonneville is also the most snake-bit program over that same stretch.

In the past three seasons the Lakers have lost twice in the state championship and once in the semifinals — all in overtime.

The term unlucky is tossed around a lot in soccer circles, and in the past few years no program has been more unlucky and had to endure more heartache than Bonneville.

“That feeling doesn’t leave you, it’s a haunting feeling,” said Bonneville first-year coach Makensie Price, who was previously an assistant coach in the program.

Nobody associated with Bonneville wants to experience that feeling again, but Price also knows that in soccer more so than any other sport there are extenuating circumstances that are uncontrollable.

Bonneville could train harder and longer than ever and in theory be more prepared for this year’s playoffs, and the exact same overtime heartache could repeat itself. Knowing the stress and anxiety that could put on her players, Price has taken a completely different approach this season.

It’s all about the process. Nobody is talking about the end goals.

Getting better each day in practice, building team camaraderie and most importantly having fun are the only thing Price talks about. The playoffs are the absolute furthest thing from her mind right now.

“We’ve had a very successful program the last couple of years, which is great, but it also puts a lot of pressure on us as a coaching staff as well as the team, so this year instead of putting that goal — that region is our goal or state is our goal — we’re taking every game one by one and approaching everything as it comes to us,” said Price.

The result has been a perfect preseason as the Lakers head into region play.

For senior UVU commit Sadie Beardall — the team’s leading scorer the past two years — she said the vibe around the team has seemed different as the pressure for results is gone.

“We’ve kind of taken a different direction of how we can come together by having confidence in one another,” said Beardall.

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Bonneville’s Sadie Beardall kicks the ball away from Skyline’s Lilly Kimball as they play in 5A girls soccer state semifinal action at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Bonneville won 2-0.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

She acknowledges that the pressure around the team and herself in recent years has helped her development as a player and will prepare her for college, but it would’ve been a terrible idea to come into the 2022 season with a state-championship-or-bust mentality.

“I feel like it got so serious in the past years, I just want to have fun in my final year at Bonneville,” said Beardall, who has scored 10 goals in the first 10 games this season.

Price can sense Beardall is playing with a confident, looser mentality and it shows with her finishing in front of goal.

“Sadie is one of those players that you don’t have to coach a lot. She kind of does what you need her to do all the time, which is great. But Sadie this year, I’ve seen her change in her way that she really helps the team. She’s selfish when she needs to be and she gets us the goal but she’s always willing to give the pass to be a team player, to create this dynamic of the whole team’s success,” said Price.

Success for the program hasn’t been a problem in recent years, it’s just been the final hurdle that’s the problem.

In 2019, Bonneville lost to Skyline in the championship 2-1 on a wicked left-footed shot from outside the box that no keeper in Utah would’ve saved.

The following year, Olympus beat Bonneville 1-0 in the title game on a golden goal header in overtime.

Last year’s loss in the semifinals was equally painful losing 2-1 to Lehi on a misplayed shot by the keeper in the final second of the first overtime.

Price said like the previous two years, many tears were shed on that bus ride home last season, especially for the 11 seniors who were really hoping they’d end the playoff jinx.

She said there was an almost immediate rededication from the underclassmen to be ready for the following season.

“It’s really hard as a player, but it creates a motivation, creates a fire in my girls. Every year they do have that they come back ready to fight harder cause they don’t want that feeling again,” said Price.

Utah State commit Summer Diamond has been one of Bonneville’s top attacking players the past three years, and she’s fully bought-in to Price’s mental approach to the season.

“This year our senior group, we obviously want to go as far as we can because we kind of owe it the seniors in the past, but I would say this year I can already tell the environment is a lot more positive,” said Diamond. “I think it’s human nature to think ahead and think of what could happen, but at the end of the day we have to push that aside and say we’re just going to think of the next game and then the next game.”

Both Diamond and Beardall have sensed a stronger sense of team early this season, with Beardall saying, “Our key is having each other’s back, no matter what.”

And just as much, Bonneville isn’t worrying about cold-weather, playoff soccer games. Region 5 starts this week and Price is making sure that’s the only thing her players are thinking of.

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Skyline’s Laura Cookson, left, and Bonneville’s Summer Diamond jockey for position on the ball as the two schools play in 5A girls soccer state semifinal action at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Bonneville won 2-0.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News