Olympus 19, Northridge 4
SALT LAKE CITY — About the same time a storm cloud began to roll over Westminster College’s Dunke Field, an offensive storm from Olympus began to roll over the Northridge defense.
The No. 1 Titans are championship-bound, something that became fairly obvious by halftime as they routed the No. 4 Knights, 19-4, in the first game of the 5A state championship semifinals. The win secured a second-straight trip to the title game and will give Olympus a chance at avenging last year’s title game loss to the same team they’ll be up against on Friday.
The Titans never trailed, scoring the first three goals of the game, but they didn’t get off to the start they expected, leading just 3-1 after the first quarter. Northridge scored early in the second quarter to bring the score to 3-2 before Olympus went to work in earnest on breaking down the Knights’ defense.
“Kind of a slow start,” Olympus coach Nick Merrell. We had some jitters coming into this game…but once we got one or two (goals), it kind of just seemed like the floodgates opened.”
Olympus’s 3-0 start to the game appeared to show the Titans in control early. The third goal came within 23 seconds of the previous, and the three goals featured three different scorers and another three different assists.
After the initial run, Northridge got off the ground with an unassisted goal at the 6:58 mark of the first quarter and played shutdown defense for the next seven minutes.
Northridge scored again in the first minute of the second quarter, and after three huge saves by Knights goalkeeper Callum Dibble, it appeared the team in black was destined to even things up midway through.
What happened was anything but.
Just after the 8-minute mark of the second quarter, the Titans went on a lightning-fast scoring run, collecting three goals in less than a minute to take a 6-2 lead. It proved to be just the beginning of an 8-0 run going into halftime that fully turned the match in Olympus’s favor and utterly silenced a fired-up Northridge crowd.
As part of that run, Titans junior attacker Charles Droitsch flew solo for a bit and singlehandedly pulverized the Knights with a personal 3-0 scoring run, all of his goals unassisted. Droitsch ended the game with four goals and two assists, tying a four-goal effort from his senior teammate Gage Phippen, who also had an assist and reached 65 goals on the season. Much of the fire in Droitsch, he said, came from his want to overcome a sluggish start of his own where he missed a number of opportunities.
“I just changed my mentality and flushed those away,” Droitsch said. “I told myself I had to lock in right now and put these guys away early.”
The second-quarter barrage was more than enough to seal the deal by halftime as Northridge had few answers against the Titans’ defense, but Olympus purchased some more insurance with a 6-0 run to the end of the third quarter, including two scores within 13 seconds. That got the running clock going, leaving little time for much to happen in the final frame.
Olympus improved to 17-1 on the season and will be looking for its first state title on Friday. The Knights finished with a 16-4 record in Reed Keller’s first season as head coach.
Park City 10, Brighton 8
SALT LAKE CITY — In what was one of the most entertaining games of the entire lacrosse season, Park City proved that championship lacrosse is all about how you finish.
The No. 3 Miners rushed out to an 8-3 lead in the third quarter, and a desperate and wild comeback bid by No. 2 Brighton in the fourth fell just short as Park City won, 10-8, to advance to the 5A state championship game.
All this happened in front of a crowd of red/black and blue/orange parents and students that filled every inch of bleacher space at Dunke Field at Westminster College.
After allowing a 5-1 run over the fourth quarter, Miners coach Michael Persky said his players just had one thing on their minds, “Finish the game.”
“There’s nothing that a coach can do in that moment,” Persky said. “It’s all on the kids, and they did a great job.”
The win was in no small part thanks to the heroic closeout effort of Park City junior goalkeeper A.J. Silianoff, who came up with two gigantic saves in the final two minutes to choke out the flame of a Brighton rally that had grown to incinerating heat.
“When a team sees their goalie play a game like that, it lifts up the whole team,” Persky said.
Silianoff started off the game in impressive fashion as the defense held Brighton scoreless in the first quarter. Of the numerous spectacular saves that dotted his performance, he had one in the beginning of the second quarter where he captured a shot on goal at nearly point-blank range on a fast break. It earned him a standing ovation from nearly every Miners fan in the stadium.
Who would have thought that would be just Silianoff’s second-most critical moment in the game? His two saves in the final minutes of the fourth all but decided the match at a point when just about everything looked to favor the Bengals.
“We had to stay mentally sharp,” Silianoff said. “Our defense couldn’t just get down and have a lapse in focus. We had to keep doing what were doing the whole game before.”
After Silianoff stemmed the tide, the defense responded with a Hail Mary pass way down to land right in front of the Brighton goal. Whether intended from the start or not, the lob was secured by Miners senior midfielder Riley Mulholland. He turned around and fired in a goal from close range that all but punched Park City’s ticket to the title game.
Mulholland’s final glorious moment capped a four-goal performance, three of which came right after Brighton scored.
Park City has never not been in a state title game since the sport was sanctioned by the UHSAA and began state play in 2021. The Miners will look to defend their 2022 state championship against the team, Olympus, that not only challenged them for last season’s trophy but also beat them, 15-5, earlier this season.
“We’ll be ready,” Persky said.