No. 5 St. Joseph and No. 3 Rowland Hall advanced to the 2A championship game, winning the 2A semifinals at Zions Bank Stadium on Thursday.

St. Joseph 2, Parowan 0

St. Joseph will get a chance to redeem last year’s 2A championship loss after defeating No. 1 Parowan 2-0.

Despite a repeat finals appearance, St. Joseph’s head coach Tom Evans says it’s a much different run than last year.

“(It’s) entirely different than last year,” said Evans. “I mean, last year we were 12-3, we rode into the final on a nine game-winning streak. This year we had tons of injuries. We just got healthy maybe three weeks ago, and we’re playing our best soccer right now. It’s just kind of taken 6-8 weeks to get to where we are now.”

The Jayhawks came into the semifinal match with a 14-0 win over South Sevier and a 5-0 win over Millard. However, St. Joseph’s was set to face top seeded Parowan, who held an 11-game winning streak prior to Thursday’s game.

The St. Joseph offense struggled through the first 60 minutes, but as with the rest of its run, it relied on its defense. The Jayhawks recorded their third shutout in a row and will go into the finals without giving up a post-season goal.

St. Joseph got some luck with a free kick which Abigail Gough nailed in the 60th minute for the 1-0 lead.

“The first half was kind of tough, it was just kind of boom ball, and we weren’t really able to play our game,” said Gough. “I think once we settled in and had that big wind right in front of the goal, I think that was our moment to breakthrough and really start playing the soccer that we’re used to.”

“It was a great win by my teammate Sophia Evans, and it was perfect positioning. I saw that their wall was slightly to the right. I saw that angle, and I just said a prayer, and shot it there and it went in. It was a great feeling.”

“I’m so excited, we didn’t do what we wanted to last year and so I can’t wait to get our revenge and bring back the championship.”

Parowan had time to even things up, but a goal from St. Joseph’s Sofia Evans shattered any hope for Parowan.

“I told the girls last year ‘we don’t want to build just a team, we want a program and have continued success as a program,’ Evans said. “So you know, two years in a row in the final, and having success and having a couple scorers in the top five in the state, I think it’s starting to put us on the map. You know, we want three or four of these in a row if we can. Just be a team that’s constantly in the semifinals and making runs. So, that’s kind of what we’re looking for.”

St. Joseph will play Rowland Hall in the 2A championship match on Saturday at 5 p.m. at America First Field in Sandy. 

Rowland Hall 3, Waterford 2

Rowland Hall lost twice this season to Waterford and allowed a combined 10 goals in those losses, so Rowland Hall head coach Bobby Kennedy knew something had to change ahead of Thursday’s 2A semifinal game.

“In both the first two games (against Waterford this season) we probably didn’t have enough grit or bite in the midfield in terms of the defense,” said Kennedy. “We didn’t move a ton of people around, effectively it’s the same 14-15 kids that played in the first match, but we focused a little bit on trying to be more two-way in midfield.“

“They play a little more direct than we do. If we can link three or four passes together, then at this level of soccer, it can break down most opponents. So, when we lose our way, it’s because we’re nervy. It’s a big occasion and there’s a lot riding on it and we just kick the ball. So, I can’t control a ton of that. “

It took two overtime periods but Rowland Hall earned a chance to get its back-to-back championship after a 3-2 victory over Waterford.

Waterford was the first to get the lead, with a quick goal from Milana Massinople in the 10th minute. Rowland Hall answered back with a goal of its own and tied it up 1-1 before halftime.

In the second half Rowland Hall briefly took a 2-1 lead after a goal from Emery Lieberman, but Waterford answered right with an equalizer from Grace Morris.

Neither team scored in regulation and the game went to overtime. Rowland Hall took control in overtime, and while it didn’t score in the first overtime period, Bea Wall quickly scored in the second overtime period off a pass from Lieberman for the win.

“I think it’s awesome to be able to get the game winner just because we’ve been working for this all season,” said Wall. “But, at the end of the day, it comes down to the preparation and 18 players showing up every day. Even though I was the one to end it, I think a lot of credit goes to my teammates and coaches.”

Rowland Hall advances to the 2A championship, where they’ll get a rematch of last year’s finals against St. Joseph.

“I think it’s great that we’ve seen them before like we know the game plan, we know what we need to do,

but obviously it’s going to be a hard fought game,” said Wall. “They are wanting revenge from earlier this season so we’ll see what happens.”

Rowland Hall narrowly beat St. Joseph earlier this season 5-4, but Kennedy is confident in his team.

“We played them up at their place and we got out on them pretty early. They have a midfield presence and some long-range shooting capabilities that hurt us. It’s going to be just like it was today, I think this group might try to play a bit more soccer, but I like our chances.”