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High school girls soccer: Region foes Lone Peak, American Fork earn 1-0 wins in 6A semis to set up showdown in final

SHARE High school girls soccer: Region foes Lone Peak, American Fork earn 1-0 wins in 6A semis to set up showdown in final

Lone Peak celebrates a goal in the final minutes of a 6A girls soccer state semifinal game against Layton at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. Lone Peak won 1-0.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Here’s a recap of the 6A semifinals at Zions Bank Stadium on Tuesday, with No. 2 seed Lone Peak and No. 5 seed American Fork both winning as the region rivals advance to the state championship game.

American Fork 1, Skyridge 0

Like always, American Fork keeper Sarah Mathis was angry when the ref pointed to the spot for a Skyridge penalty in the 6A semifinals on Tuesday. Because as she said, “I always think it’s not a PK.”

But a few seconds later, she said, “I just have to lock in and just make the save for my team cause they did all the work and now it’s my job.”

Just as she’s done three other times this year, that’s exactly what Mathis did at Zions Bank Stadium.

She dove to her left and fully extended saved a well-taken penalty from Skyridge in the 53rd minute to preserve American Fork’s 1-0 lead, which it held onto for the rest of the match to book it’s place in Friday’s 6A state championship.

Mathis has now saved three of four penalty kicks she’s faced this season, and she said it’s all about the confidence.

“You’ve got to have confidence, if you don’t have confidence on a PK you’re not stopping it because they definitely have the advantage, it’s a whole wide open goal. You just have to be confident and decide and go,” said Mathis, who said she had a hunch Skyridge’s shooter was going to her right based on the scouting report.

Despite just the one goal, the action was end to end for much of the match as Mathis and her Skyridge counterparts, Allie Noorda and Emalynn Levingston, were busy dealing with quality buildup from both teams.

In the end though, only one shot beat the keeper. Just 15 minutes in, American Fork senior Sophie Eckery got on the end of a Lucy Kesler corner kick and headed it just inside the post for the 1-0 lead.

In American Fork’s 2-1 quarterfinal win last week, Eckery scored the winning goal as well as she headed in a cross from Lila Millard.

“As we all know, headers, no one likes them, they’re not fun necessarily, but when you put them in. That’s two headers in a row for her, she got a big one at Mountain Ridge,” said American coach Derek Dunn.

Skyridge and American Fork split their region games this season, with a total of 10 goals being score, so Dunn fully expected it to be an end to end match with chances both ways.

“Skyridge is a heck of a team, they really are, and they fought valiantly, and to go through the people they’ve gone through. Utmost respect to them,” said Dunn.

He admitted American Fork could’ve done better defensively dealing with Skyridge’s urgency in the attack in the second half, but his backline did enough to secure the win and advance to the championship at America First Field in Sandy at 1 a.m. on Friday against Lone Peak.

Lone Peak 1, Layton 0

Ivy Harding said she had no idea where to run.

The Lone Peak sophomore had just tapped in the 6A semifinal go-ahead goal with less than a minute remaining, but she wasn’t immediately sure how to celebrate.

It didn’t take long though for the mob of Lone Peak teammates to come together in a dog file at the edge of the penalty area as they celebrated Harding’s game-winner, which punched the Knights’ ticket to the 6A state championship with the 1-0 win over Layton.

“Just being there, honestly I was just in the right spot I guess,” said Harding, who had scored just one other varsity goal this season. “It was awesome. I’m excited.”

The goal occurred with just 50 seconds remaining as No. 2 seed Lone Peak advanced to the final against rival American Fork on Friday at 11 a.m. at America First Field.

Lone Peak came into the game as the clear favorite having beat Layton 4-0 in the preseason, but as coach Shantel Jolley reminder her players numerous times, anything can happen in the playoffs. That’s exactly how the game was unfolding as the minutes ticket away and overtime seemed inevitable.

“The playoffs is a whole other beast,” said Jolley. “Anything can happen, one call can make the difference, and those girls, Layton, they want it as bad as we do. I think the talent goes out the window a little bit more and it’s who’s going to work the hardest.”

The unsung hero Harding changed that narrative.

She had subbed on and off a few times during the game as Lone Peak tried to keep fresh legs in the attack, and her rotation just happened to be up in the final minutes as Lone Peak earned a corner kick.

Belle Devey, who whipped in the decisive corner kick, initially instructed Harding to go stand by the keeper to create traffic in the box.

Harding initially watched as the initial ball sailed over her head, but quickly turned around to see teammate Ruby Lee head it back in front of goal. With Layton defenders surrounding her, Harding was in perfect position to tap a little side-foot volley into the back of the net from just a few yards away for the winning goal.

Prior to that moment, Layton’s defense had done a tremendous job bottling up an attack that had scored 83 goals heading into the semifinal. One set piece was the difference, something Jolley told her team may happen.

“As I stressed to these girls, the moment the playoffs start, games are lost and won on set pieces, and we have preached and preached and preached that,” said Jolley.

For Lone Peak, the loss helped ease the frustration from last year’s heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Farmington as the tournament favorite.