ST. GEORGE — There was an overriding feeling on the field after Desert Hills beat Cedar Tuesday night and clinched its first region championship in six years, but it wasn’t joy.
To be sure, the Lady Thunder were thrilled with their hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Lady Reds and the region trophy that accompanies the league title. But D-Hills coaches and players alike wanted to make sure that everyone knew one thing: There’s some unfinished business.
“For sure, we are so happy with this win, especially since Cedar is the team that beat us in the championship last year,” said DH midfielder Madi Hansen. “We’re happy, but not satisfied. Getting region was our first step, but getting a state championship is our ultimate goal.”
The only region loss for Desert Hills came to Cedar on a blustery afternoon at CHS. In that game, Cedar took a 1-0 lead after a hand ball was called on the Thunder in the goalie box. Tuesday’s game started much the same, with Nicole Jenkins putting the Lady Reds up 1-0 with 18 minutes left in the first half off a hand ball PK.
“It was OK, because we knew we had a lot of time left,” said Desert Hills’ Brooklyn Lott. “We knew we had to communicate better and make crisp passes and play hard and it would work out.”
Lott evened the score with three minutes left in the first half on a crazy sequence in front of the goal. The Thunder had dominated possession for much of the first half, but couldn’t convert until a cross found heavy traffic out in front. Two shots by D-Hills just missed — one off the post and one blocked by a defender. But Lott was there for the third attempt and buried it in the back of the net.
“It went off the post on a shot by Brenna Owen and then Jessica Mathis shot and then I was finally able to tap it into that corner,” Lott said.
The go-ahead goal, which came just three minutes into the second half, was equally crazy. Hansen stole the ball from a defender and got off a wicked cross that caromed off of a teammate, and then a Cedar defender before bouncing in the goal. Technically an own-goal, hansen’s steal and cross made it happen.
“We definitely had a whole bunch of girls there, whoever got it,” DH coach Benji Nelson said. “Madi put it in there and we had a lot of people running to the goal. We’ll take it. They got their PK, we’ll take that one.”
The Thunder owned the ball in the second half, with only the occasional counterstrike from Cedar. However, the Thunder couldn’t increase their lead. Cedar keeper Megan Giddings had five good saves in the last 14 minutes of the game.
The Reds’ last, best chance came with about 30 seconds left when Jenkins, one of the top-goal scorers in the state the past two seasons, wriggled free and fired a hard strike that skidded just left of the goal. The Thunder were bable to clear after that and run the clock out, sparking a celebration at midfield.
“I don’t need to celebrate yet. I want the big one,” Nelson said. “We had tons of opportunities. We must have hit four or five posts in this one. We need to convert those opportunities if we’re going to keep being successful.”
Desert Hills, 9-4-2 overall and 7-1-1 in region, closes out the regular season Friday night at home against Snow Canyon in a game that is no more than an exhibition for DH, having clinched the region title. But it could mean a home playoff game for the Warriors if they can win and have Cedar lose. The Warriors trail Cedar by a single point.
The Lady Reds, 10-5-0 and 6-3-0, finish with a home game against Pine View.
Snow Canyon 2, Hurricane 0
Mada Mooring earned her fourth shutout of the season as the Warriors won at home Tuesday night.
Freshman Arantxa Melendez broke the scoreless tie in the second half with her second goal of the season and the second in as many games. Megan Weston then doubled the lead with a netfinder as the Warriors improved to 6-5-4 overall and 5-2-2 in region action.
SC’s loss to Dixie last Friday will cost them second place in region unless they can beat Desert Hills Friday and then have Cedar tie or lose at home to Pine View.
Hurricane fell to 4-10-1 overall and 0-9-0 in region with the loss. The Tigers finish the season Thursday night with a home game vs. Dixie.
Pine View 1, Dixie 1 (2OT)
Neither team could post a goal in the two overtimes as this one ends in a tie Tuesday night.
With the tie, Pine View is locked into the fourth-place spot in Region 9 and will head on the road when the playoffs begin next week. The Panthers have 14 points, three behind third-place Snow Canyon and seven in front of fifth-place Dixie.
PV, 7-3-4 and 4-3-2, finish out the regular season at Cedar Thursday. Dixie, 4-8-1 and 2-6-1, closes out its season Thursday with a match at Hurricane.
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