Coming into the first region game — in one of the state’s toughest regions — off a loss can be a tough spot for any team to be in.
Murray found itself in that exact position when East paid it a visit Tuesday afternoon to kick off the team’s Region 6 slate. The Spartans decidedly bounced back from their 5-2 loss at Timpanogos with a commanding 5-0 win over the Leopards.
Murray head coach Brady Smith said he was pleased with the energy his team brought from the opening play, which in turn allowed them to get on the board rapidly as Sammie Sofonia drew and converted a penalty kick goal just five minutes into the game.
“Coming off a loss, you wonder how kids are going to mentally respond, but we came out with good energy, got that early goal and set the tone for what will be an extremely tough region schedule,” Smith said.
Sofonia scored again just eight minutes after her first goal and then she assisted defender Lilly Ford’s goal with just under nine minutes to go in the first half, giving the Spartans a 3-0 lead at halftime.
Smith heaped heavy praise on Sofonia, whose goal total moved up to 10 for the season (tied for second most statewide).
“Sammie has the ability to not just score goals, but to hold up play and create for others,” Smith said of the star senior. “With Sammie, you’re talking about a player that will end as one of the top goal scorers in the history of high school soccer (in the state), but she’s a player that affects the game in many ways.”
Second half goals from Sariah Taeoalii and Brooklyn Smith polished off the successful five-goal outing for Murray — success that Smith attributed to the stellar play from his midfield players, led by senior Karime Antonio.
“It’s been a progression in the middle of the field for us, and you saw today that there were times that we just made (East) chase us with our ability to move the ball in and out,” Smith said while adding that Antonio was a big reason for the midfield’s success in possession.
“Karime is a special player with the ball at her feet and East saw that today. It’s tough to keep her in front of you with her ability to beat you 1-v-1.”
East was able to create a handful of chances throughout the game when it managed to take the ball away from the Spartans, but none of the chances managed to find the back of the net. Keeper Abby Barlocker recorded Murray’s second clean sheet of the year.
With the dust from the Timpanogos loss now shaken off, the Spartans will now turn their attention to Thursday’s game at Brighton — the state’s third ranked 5A team in the Deseret News girls soccer rankings.
Going into the game, Smith said his team will have to play a full 80 minutes if they hope to challenge the Bengals and remain undefeated in region play.
“I would like to see some more consistency (over the course of the game),” Smith said. “We have streaks where we play excellent soccer, but then we have these stretches where it looks like we’re disconnected. … Brighton is a sound team defensively, so we’re going to have to be able to play our brand of soccer — move the ball in and out and take advantage of opportunities in front of goal.”