ST. GEORGE — The Crimson Cliffs girls soccer team came up just short of its goal Friday night when the Mustangs were defeated 1-0 in double overtime against Mountain Crest in the finals of the 4A state championship tournament.
Mountain Crest’s Summer Sofonia scored on a free kick a little more than 30 yards out to end a long, hard fought game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.
It was a heartbreaking finish to a winning season by Crimson Cliffs (17-3), which finished as state runner up for the second consecutive year.
“We were so proud of all that we accomplished,” Crimson Cliffs coach Kat Esplin told St. George News after the game. “We didn’t lose a game for 15, 16 weeks in a row. Not many teams can say that.”
In tournament-level play, goals are extremely hard to come by and Esplin said Mountain Crest made it even more difficult than usual.
“They played great defense,” she said.
Hurting the Mustangs was the absence of senior Kate Young, who scored the only goal for Crimson Cliffs in the semifinal shootout win over Sky View.
Young sprained her ankle near the end of that game and although she tried and wanted to play in the final, she wasn’t able to go.
More injury trouble plagued the Mustangs when sophomore midfielder Paisley Hinton, a key defender on the team, suffered a broken arm during the game.
“She played pretty much every minute for us in the season, so that was really hard also,” Esplin said.
Sofonia was awarded the free kick that won the game after a tough call on a Crimson Cliffs foul.
“It wasn’t a horrible call, I thought maybe the referee could have let us play on. It was an aggressive call,” Esplin said. “A similar play happened to one of our players earlier in the game and it wasn’t called, so that makes it pretty hard.”
But the goal did not overshadow another fine performance by Crimson Cliffs senior goalkeeper Ellie Nielsen, who made several key stops throughout the game.
“She was amazing,” Esplin said. “Ellie really showed her worth again, and showed what a competitor she is.”
While several seniors will graduate and leave the team, Esplin said a very large sophomore class will bolster the Mustangs next year.
“Our junior varsity team was undefeated, so I think we’re going to have a great, strong team the next two years,” Esplin said. “The key will be if someone can step up and fill Jantzyn Losee’s shoes as an attacking, goal scoring forward.”
Even though it didn’t end the way the seniors hoped it would, Esplin said they had an outstanding season.
“The girls gave everything they had,” Esplin said. “They’re proud and they know how amazing they are. It was as close to winning as we could get.”
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