SANDY — The Juan Diego Soaring Eagle overcame an early 1-0 hole and knocked the Snow Canyon Warriors out of the 3A state semifinals, 5-1, Friday at Jordan High School.
Despite Snow Canyon coming up short in its quest to win the 2016 state soccer championship, the consensus from Warrior players and coaching staff was that they surprised a lot of people and defied expectations. Senior Serena Lindsay, who is described by her coach as the “get-up and go engine, fireball and emotional leader of the team” reflected on the 2016 campaign.
“I am so impressed with my team,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls. Through all the wins and the losses, we have become so close and I know I’ll have friendships that will last longer because of it and so that’s what I’ll take from this season. I am sad, but I am feeling grateful for the friendships.”
Warrior head coach Kenny Kunde added that not many people believed they could get this far.
“I don’t think I’ll forget how hard these kids worked this year,” he said. “And how much they stood together and pushed each other along. We didn’t have high expectations from the media in St. George because we lost goalies and had a freshmen in (goal) and we are kind of a younger team. I think we surprised a lot of people with how well we did. I am impressed with the progress we made and how these kids came together with the seniors and got them here to the semis and gave them a chance to get into the final game. Just one game short again, now the second year in a row we have been bumped out here in the semis but we plan on being back.”
SC midfielder Brielle Hoskins, who collected her fourth goal of the season, shocked Juan Diego out of the gates when she controlled a corner kick in traffic and sunk home the first goal of the game in the fifth minute.
Juan Diego head coach Daniel Cavar convened briefly with his squad after SC’s quick score.
“I told them ‘No problem,” Cavar said. “We have been in this situation many times before and have dealt with these situations many times. We are here to really prove what we are all about.”
Unfortunately for the Warriors, Juan Diego responded with ferocity. JD’s all-star duo up front went to work. Daviana “Davi” Vaka drew the defense away just five minutes later and connected cross-goal with AnnaMaria DiGerinomo, setting up the senior captain with an easy tap-in to tie things up 1-1.
Then, in the 13th minute, Juan Diego worked a full-field press and forced a Snow Canyon giveaway. DiGerinomo, niftily swiped the ball from the last SC defender and found herself in a one-on-one opportunity with SC freshman goalkeeper Megan Rodgers. Rodgers made fantastic diving parry on DiGerinomo, but the rebound unluckily rolled right back to DiGerinomo for an easy open goal shot to put JD up 2-1.
“AnnaMaria (DiGerinomo) is an amazing player and does her thing,” Cavar said. “If I could use one word to describe her, it would be she is really something special. She is the heart of the team, not only skill-wise, but as a person and people look up to her.”
Things went from bad to worse for the Warriors when junior Heaven Kelly found Snow Canyon out of position and chipped a ball from the left side of the goal box to the top right corner of the goal in the 24th minute. One minute later, Vaka attacked from the left side and juked two defenders, then lasered in a shot low and in the left corner to grab what felt like an early knockout punch on Snow Canyon at 4-1.
“We just had a few defensive letdowns,” Kunde said. “It was just disheartening for the girls. They had four goals within just 15 or 20 minutes of each other, so I think that started to wear on them.”
The Warriors stopped the bleeding and held JD from scoring going into the half. But out of the locker room, it only took two minutes for the Soaring Eagle to find back net again. Vaka pinpoint-placed a chip from the left side into top right corner (a goal that looked a lot like Kelly’s earlier goal) and put Juan Diego up 5-1, a lead which would prove insurmountable.
Juan Diego played conservatively and coasted home the rest of the game against a frustrated Warrior team that couldn’t find any space to shoot near the goal late. Despite the lopsided score, Cavar took his hat off to the way the SC Warriors played.
“I’ve played Snow Canyon multiple years now,” Cavar said. “This is my first year as the head coach. They came out with a full game and with a lot of heart and they came out and played and the fair play to the game was there and a big shout out to them. This year it didn’t work, but with development in the future months and years to come, I think we’ll see them again next year.”
Lindsey, who has plans to serve a mission and attend Utah State University after graduation, reflected on what she called an unforgettable year.
“It’s always fun beating a tough team,” she said. “This year we beat Desert Hills in overtime on a golden goal at home and then later went to Dixie and beat them on their own field for the first time in a couple years. Those are all good experience that I will never forget. “
Kunde added that the young core he has will be back for more next year.
“This was a great learning opportunity for these young kids” he said. “We expect to be here year in and year out and we’ll go and figure out what we need to do to be ready next year.”
The Warriors finish their 2016 season 12-7-1, the second seed in Region 9 and their semifinal appearance was the furthest any region 9 team went this season.
The Juan Diego Soaring Eagle improve to 13-5-1 and will compete for the 2016 3A state championship Saturday at 4:30 p.m. against region foe (and defending 3A champ) Logan.
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