DRAPER — The RSL Academy girls soccer team has realized for a while that it will have to earn its first state championship.
The three-year-old school may specialize in soccer, but it hasn’t yet solved the problem of getting past Rowland Hall. The Griffins will get another chance next week, however, in the 2A title contest.
Shortly after Rowland Hall handled Parowan 4-0 in one semifinal match Thursday at Juan Diego Catholic High School, the Griffins took a step forward by dominating Millard 8-0 to set up the championship match between the top two seeds.
Emily Blanchard scored three goals and Real Salt Lake got another chance to play its nemesis. The Griffins scored their first goal less than two minutes into the game and never let up, forcing an early end due to the UHSAA’s “mercy rule” with 15:30 minutes remaining.
“The girls feel like they’re on a mission,” said coach Becky Hogan. “We were the better team, and we had 23 of our 25 players get time on the field. We didn’t let the game come to us. We played to our strengths.
“This kind of (championship) experience is tough on 14-year-old girls. In soccer, you never know what’s going to happen.”
The Griffins entered in the tourney as the No. 2 seed, playing as an independent but competing primarily against 5A and 6A powers. They lost to Rowland Hall in the 2A title match last year, and then fell to the Winged Lions 3-2 last month. In two tournament games, however, they have scored 17 goals and are looking forward to next Tuesday’s contest at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“A lot of our players have been talking about it,” said Blanchard, a freshman who chose to attend the private school instead of Bingham. “We’ve worked hard. Tonight, we had more energy (than Millard). We wanted it more.”
Millard came in on a 10-game winning streak, but the Eagles managed just a single shot on goal and finished with a 12-4 record. Goalkeeper Lucy Freeman, who had three shutouts this season, was constantly pressured by Blanchard, and also gave up shots to Keely Webb, Olivia Watt, Kambree Brennan, Leah Heugly and Natalie Scott.
Webb scored first, less than two minutes into the game, and Scott’s goal made it 8-0 and allowed the cold Millard squad to board its bus and ride back to Fillmore.
In the first 2A semifinal, Rowland Hall also left no doubt of its place in the championship game, scoring soon after the start of the match and continuing its path for a third straight state title.
Summer Connery scored twice, and Lizzy Carlin and Beatrix Wall added single goals as Rowland Hall improved to 12-2 with its ninth straight win.
Misha Nenbee earned the shutout. Rowland Hall scored all of its goals in the first half, and Nenbee made sure Parowan didn’t get any momentum by turning away several shots, including one by Laci Sissener that bounced off the crossbar. Sissener ended her phenomenal career, in which she scored 85 goals, including 34 this year.