Alta soccer just keeps reloadingMay 07, 2018 12:28PM ● By Ron Bevan
Alta’s Cole Fassler goes high for a header in a recent boys soccer game. The senior is one of six seniors on this year’s squad. (Photo: Ron Bevan/City Journals)
High school athletics are unlike the professional, collegiate and even the youth competition leagues. Those teams pretty much keep their rosters the same, or pick and choose new players to fit their needs.
In high school, most teams have to adjust their play style to the talent pool available to them. Every year a new class of players comes into the school, and they stay for only four years. There are no drafts. There are no trades. Just the local youth.
But in Sandy there is a school and an athletic program that seems to thrive on its talent pool year in and year out. There are relatively few peaks and valleys. In the fall and in the spring, whether it is the girls team or the boys team, all schools are gunning for Alta and its soccer prowess.
“We have built a tradition at Alta in our soccer program,” coach Lee Mitchell said. “Players coming into our program know about the history at Alta and know it is up to them to keep it going. There is a lot expected of them.”
A drive past the school and its soccer stadium reflect that history. Hanging proudly from the back of the football field grandstands and overlooking the soccer field are the banners: eight state titles for the girls team and five for the boys. It should also be noted all of these titles have been won under the watchful eye of Mitchell, who has been the only soccer coach since the program began at Alta.
And in a way the boys team is the defending state champions. They won the title last season in the 4A ranks. This year, however, Alta has moved back into the 5A category. Still, the expectation at the school remains the same: win.
“The boys know it is very difficult to repeat under any circumstances,” Mitchell said. “Moving up a category makes it even harder. But they have taken the challenge.”
A formidable task indeed. Alta’s state championship team of last season was heavy laden with seniors. The Hawks lost 11 players from that team to graduation. A graduation rate like that usually means it is time to rebuild at the high school level.
Instead, Alta is flying high on the backs of its newer players and the handful of junior and sophomores that saw action last year. The Hawks have barely lost a step, losing only one game in their first 8 outings. Juniors seem to be the top attackers for Alta, with Kenny Kocherscheidt, Chris Stephensen and Ethan Bell doing the bulk of the scoring. Eight different Alta players have put the ball in the back of the net this season.
A junior also mans the net for Alta. Goalkeeper Traven England has been tapped for the responsibility of keeping the ball out of the goal. And he has a good group of defenders in front of him to help, including seniors Jett Sollis, Cole Fassler and Kyle Bailey.
“Sollis played up front in the past for us,” Mitchell said. “We put him in the back to anchor the defense.”
Alta has always been known for its talent, and several players have gone on to the collegiate and even professional ranks. But the Hawks have never been about a player or two.
“It needs to be a team effort for us because we don’t have superstars,” Mitchell said. “Some of these kids are very talented, but they know that the only way to win is to play as a team.”
Mitchell uses a variety of techniques to mold his team from the collection of youth competitive players that once were rivals and now teammates. He gets to know players on a personal level. He goes down the line during practices and shakes the hand of every player. He has team dinners.
“We have a team dinner every week and I try to bring a former player in to speak to them each time,” Mitchell said. “They get to hear what has made our program successful in the past. They hear that we expect them to carry on the tradition.”
A tradition that could end with another championship this May, another trophy in the halls at Alta and another banner hanging proudly over the soccer field.