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High school soccer: Emma Neff’s golden goal helps Olympus halt 24-year title drought with OT win over Bonneville

SHARE High school soccer: Emma Neff’s golden goal helps Olympus halt 24-year title drought with OT win over Bonneville

Olympus celebrates after scoring in overtime to beat Bonneville in the 5A girls soccer state championship at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SANDY — Olympus had never advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament in Necie Gubler’s first three years with the Titans, so with a new coach for her senior season, the idea of winning a championship in 2020 never entered her mind.

“I never even thought of it,” admitted Gubler.

As Olympus started piling up region wins, though, the belief grew, and once the playoffs began, Gubler had little doubt about the potential.

Thanks to Gubler’s golden right foot and the golden head of junior teammate Emma Neff, the Titans defied even their own preseason expectations to capture the 5A state championship on Neff’s overtime winner as the Titans topped Bonneville 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday.

It was Olympus’ first state championship since 1996.

“In region, we were winning a lot of games I didn’t think we would win, and I was like ‘We actually have a chance,’ and once playoffs started, I actually believed we could win it,” said Gubler.

Olympus shut out four of its five playoff opponents en route to the championship.

Gubler is referred to often as a set-piece master for the Titans, someone who can put the ball wherever it needs to go.

“Necie is amazing. Necie can get any ball anywhere. You tell her where and she does it,” said Neff.

Strangely though, early in the championship, her deliveries hadn’t been quite as spot on. Seconds before her corner kick delivery to Neff for the winner in the 88th minute, she had another corner kick that was cleared away easily by Bonneville’s defense.

As she lined up for the second corner, her mindset was pretty simple.

“I saw Emma at the six, and if I just hit her head and she’ll get it in,” said Gubler.

Neff is only 5-foot-4, but Olympus coach Jamie Evans said, “Emma will finish anything you put at her head. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that she scored the goal in the end.”

Early on in Friday’s championship game, it was Bonneville that dictated the tempo with Olympus dropping deep throughout the first half and defending. It was not the game plan, and Evans challenged her team to change the narrative in the second half.

“First half, we played very defensive and I said, ‘We’ve got to switch it up, we’ve got to score a goal to win this game,’ and they did. The second half, we came out with way more chances, and we just said, ‘Let’s get in behind. We have to go forward,’” said Evans.

Watch replay: Olympus 1, Bonneville 0

Bonneville’s chances didn’t dry up either, as the second half featured end-to-end action at times — specifically in the final five minutes or regulation.

In the 75th minute, Bonneville’s Rylee Lopaz slipped a shot just over the crossbar, and then three minutes later Sadie Beardall had a shot go just wide.

Olympus had its best chance of the second half in the 79th minute as Lily Webster got in behind Bonneville’s defense for a 1v1 chance vs. the keeper, but Aubree Beardall came up with the diving save in the late flurry.

There was obvious stress and anxiety in those final minutes and heading into overtime, but Neff said the new coaching staff worked all year to prepare the players for those exact moments.

“This year we’ve really worked on using that energy and pressure to make us better and to make us tackle harder and run faster, and so I think for us the more excitement helps us play better,” said Neff.

Olympus’ final four victories in the playoffs were all one-goal games, so whatever the coaches did worked.