Region 9 soccer: Race for playoffs is tight at halfway point

Dixie's Lacee Durrant (18), Desert Hills vs. Dixie, Girls Soccer, St. George, UT, Sept. 9, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — We have now reached the halfway point of Region 9 girls soccer. Each team has played six of its 12 region games. The current standings are a little bit of a surprise, but the top five teams are neck-and-neck, with only four playoff spots available.

Dixie is the mid-point leader, but with the race for the region title so close, every game will be crucial.. Here is a look at the current standings and a look into each team.

Standings (region record and points)
Dixie (4-1-1, 13)
Snow Canyon (4-2-0, 12)
Cedar (4-2-0, 12)
Hurricane (3-1-2, 11)
Desert Hills (3-2-1, 10)
Canyon View (1-5-0, 3)
Pine View (0-6-0, 0)

Dixie Flyers (4-1-1, 13 pts)

The Flyers have been the surprise team, overtaking Snow Canyon for the Region 9 lead at the halfway point. They have outscored their opponents 18-10 so far and do not seem to be letting up. Kennedy Warnick and Lindsey Barben have combined for half of those goals scored.

The biggest win so far has been against Snow Canyon. The tie against Hurricane is what has given this team the region lead. Warnick scored the game-game tying goal before the final buzzer to help the Flyers hold on for the draw. But the Flyers also just lost against Cedar in a game that could have put some much needed breathing room into their lead. With the loss, the top five teams are separated by only one game.

New head coach Sam Gibbs has his team playing well.

“We are a contender,” he said. “I’ve been telling them that all season. These girls have a lot of potential and a lot of skill. If they come out and play well, we can do this with most teams … They’ve got the right mentality to win.”

Warnick, Barben and Delaney Story will be key players to keep the Flyers on top of the standings, especially since Halee Barker is no longer with the team for personal reasons. Barker played extremely smart and was a key component for setting Warnick, Barben and Kelcee Call up for goals. With her gone, someone else will need to step up and fill the void.

Snow Canyon Warriors (4-2-0, 12 pts)

The Lady Warriors are still the best team in Region 9, even if the standings do not say so. Heidi Smith and Ashley Brindley are among the deadliest duos in the state, combining for 13 goals scored. Having Samantha Lindsey on the defensive side has also helped the Lady Warriors to their four wins. Lindsey is able to take any ball that goes out of bounds and turn it into a play near the goal, as well as take a long shot without hesitation.

Desert Hills and Canyon View have been the best wins in region so far for the Lady Warriors. Both teams made furious comebacks, but fell just short, thanks in part to this team’s stifling defense. The losses to Dixie and Hurricane did not help Snow Canyon in this first half, but will make for all the more exciting matches later in the season.

Head coach Kenny Kunde said aggressive defense is the key.

“We really stress our defenders to not just hang back and be spectators in the game,” he said. “We want them to get up and get involved in the game. When your defenders are getting involved, you’re a tough team to defend.”

Kunde also is expecting his team to make a run at the state championship, saying, “(We talk about) what it means to be a champion, what it means to be the team that everyone is gunning for and how you have to come out and put that best effort every time. We know that preparation will pay off.”

Cedar Lady Reds (4-2-0, 12 pts)

The Lady Reds have been a little bit of a surprise this season. Before region play began, the team was predicted to finish fifth, just outside of the playoffs. But now the Lady Reds are in second place, only one point behind first place Dixie. They also have the best offense in the region so far, scoring 22 goals in six games.

Julia Hunt has been outstanding, scoring eight goals. Her twin sister, Rachel Hunt, has also scored three. The Lady Reds love running down the field and beating the defenders. Even from up in the press box, it looks like a 4.4 40-yard dash is being run.

Cedar has had big wins against Dixie and Hurricane so far this year, two teams that have stellar defenses. But an early loss to Desert Hills and a tight loss to Snow Canyon have kept the Lady Reds from first place.

Head coach Scott Kamachi said the ultra-tough Region 9 makes every game night intense.

“In our region, it’s just one game at a time because they are all going to be tough,” he said. “In this region, if you overlook anybody, it doesn’t matter who they are, they can beat you.”

Hurricane Tigers (3-1-2, 11 pts)

The Tigers have started region play by having five of their first six games go into overtime, including the first four in a row. When the game goes into overtime, Hurricane is 3-0-2, outscoring opponents 8-5. The Tigers have only allowed 11 goals all year, so scoring on them is an achievement in itself.

Lena Stevens and Jayden Langford have been huge contributors for the Hurricane, combining to score 10 goals. Kylee Stevens has scored four goals as well.

The Tigers had big wins this year against Canyon View, which set the tone for the first half, and Snow Canyon. Both games were overtime games in which the Tigers were able to come out on top. Losing to Cedar took a toll on the Tigers, however, as they lost 6-2. Having Dixie come out with a tie was also a big disappointment for the Tigers, who thought they had the game won until the final seconds.

Head coach Luke Stevens said the roller coaster of emotions this year has been thrilling.

The game of soccer (is) one minute you’re on top of the world and literally the next you could be losing the game,” he said. “(But) we know how to win overtime games.”

Stevens has also had praise for his defense, saying, “We are usually all over teams. (They give us) lots of opportunities.”

Desert Hills Thunder (3-2-1, 10 pts)

The Thunder have had a hard time scoring this year, only managing five goals before Tuesday. However, they had also only allowed five goals to that point. After an 8-2 win against Canyon View, the Thunder have now outscored opponents 13-7.

There is no question the Thunder have the best defense in the region, and it will be put to the test this second half in a rematch with Cedar and Snow Canyon.

Drew Morby has been excellent for this young team, using her play-making ability to score three goals so far this year. Mallory Iverson should also be a big contributor this second half after scoring all four of her goals in the last game against Canyon View.

The Thunder picked up big wins so far against Cedar and Canyon View. They have also been able to draw confidence from their close losses against Snow Canyon and Dixie. The Thunder outplayed the Lady Warriors in the second half of their contest, as well as being able to hold the Flyers to a 1-0 bout.

Head coach Benji Nelson said getting some offense going is key.

“Our biggest challenge is scoring goals,” he said. “If that’s what we have to keep working on in practice, if we can put forth the effort, we will get better and better. We are playing well, we just have to finish. We are not allowing teams to score a lot of goals on us.”

Nelson has continued to stress this year how much better his team is getting, saying, “I feel very confident that, going forward, we’re going to get better and better. That’s going to be one of our advantages. They are starting to play off each other and supporting each other.”

Canyon View Falcons (1-5-0, 3 pts)

It has been a rough time for the Falcons coming back to Region 9. Stats say they have allowed the most goals in the region (28), but stats do not show the effort and chemistry the team has.

Assistant coach Dave Roberson has said, “These girls (fight) their hearts out. I can’t say enough about how much fight the girls have in them. The one thing we’ve really talked about is heart  and not letting the other team dictate the game.”

Head coach Mark Comstock has also said, “When we start to find our groove and put together games like the one against Snow Canyon, we can play with anybody. Whenever we compete and play well in Region 9, it’s because we’re physical, we get aggressive, and we match the speed of the teams we’re playing. When we do that, we can play with almost anybody, and we’re good enough to do that.”

Morgan Haag has been a superstar for the Falcons, scoring 11 goals so far. Tylee Bulloch has also been great, scoring seven times, with Mia Smith adding four goals of her own.

Despite the Falcons record, they play with a lot of chemistry. They have a family atmosphere, as one fan described, and they back each other up. The effort against Snow Canyon, which the Falcons lost 3-2 in the final 10 minutes, showed the potential that this team has. With more home games in the second half, the Falcons should put up a good fight.

Pine View Panthers (0-6-0, 0 pts)

The Panthers have had a rough year. But then again, who can blame them when they started the season out against Dixie and Snow Canyon. During one game, head coach Sam Johnston told his team that the outcome of the game would determine the season. The Panthers would lose the game, but it was only 1-0.

Cierra Barber has been the young star so far, netting two goals. Whitney Christensen has yet to score for the Panthers, but her impact may be seen in two or three years when Pine View has more experience. Tiara Cafferty has put in one goal herself this year, and will be looking to Christensen more in the second half of the season to be the leader next year.

Although no comments from Johnston have been heard, one coach has said that Johnston is proud of the fight his team shows. The Panthers will look to get one or two wins in the second half that they can use as confidence going into next year.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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