With a pair of goals sandwiched around the halftime break, the Desert Hills girls soccer team clinched the Region 9 girls soccer title Tuesday night with a 2-1 win over a Cedar team that heretofore perplexed the Thunder.
Desert Hills last won a region title in 2009. That year, they won the 3A half of Region 9, but in the full region the Thunder finished third behind then-4A schools Pine View and Snow Canyon.
Thus, this year is the first year the Thunder will have finished atop the full Region 9 table.
The region title was sweet—beating Cedar to win made it even sweeter. Last year, the Lady Reds downed the Thunder in the state championship match, and Cedar handed Desert Hills its only region loss earlier this year.
So when Cedar again took a 1-0 lead, it had a feeling of déjà vu to it. Worse for the Thunder, if the score stood, it would have put Cedar in first place in region.
“The girls have known all week that this game would be the determining factor in who wins region,” said Desert Hills coach Benji Nelson, “and they stayed focused. That’s hard when you give up a penalty kick.”
The Thunder, though, didn’t slow down. Desert Hills dominated most of the match, and instead of hanging their heads, the Thunder kept pushing.
The equalizing goal came with three minutes left in the half. Off a corner kick, Breanna Owen drilled a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar. The rebound went to Jess Mathis, but she too hit the ironwork.
Then the ball fell to Brooklyn Lott—and her shot was just right.
“I knew I had to get it in when it was my turn,” Lott said.
The Thunder got the decisive goal three minutes into the second half.
Madi Hansen made a strong run down the left side. Her cross, however, didn’t find its intended target, but a Cedar defender’s rushed clearance went into the back of the net for an own goal.
Hansen’s strong run created the opportunity—and it was a product of taking her coach’s advice.
Hansen missed the first half of the season with an injury. Hansen said she’d been hesitant since return, and her coaches encouraged her to take the ball forward when she had it.
Cedar tried to get the equalizer, and in the final minute, it looked like it might just get it.
The ever-dangerous Nicole Jenkins made a determined run down the middle of the field. Desert Hills goalkeeper Brittney Moore rushed off her line and knocked the ball away from Jenkins, but the ball skittered to the left.
Jenkins quickly raced to it, but her sliding shot fell into the side netting.
Jenkins scored the Cedar’s goal. In the 22nd minute, a ball in the box bounced and struck the hand of a Thunder defender for a penalty kick.
Jenkins placed her rising shot inside the post to give Cedar the lead.
That, however, proved to be merely the prelude to the Thunder’s rally to win the match and the region championship.
“We haven’t won region in six years,” Lott said, “so it’s amazing to accomplish this for my team and my school, and it took a team effort, and it was an amazing feeling to finally beat Cedar.”