Alta soccer claims second consecutive state championshipMay 25, 2018 11:58AM ● By Ron Bevan
The Alta boys soccer team celebrates another state title, beating Viewmont, 2-1, to win the 5A championship. (Photo by Ron Bevan/City Journals)|
By Ron Bevan | [email protected]
They opened the season as the favorite after winning last year’s 4A state title. They closed the season with the 5A championship.
Alta once against secured its place at the top of boys soccer with a 2-1 overtime victory over Viewmont to claim the 2018 5A state soccer title May 24.
But the road to another boys soccer title at Alta was a bumpy one this season. The Hawks lost four games this year and had to battle back from a 3-1 deficit in the semifinals as well as the overtime championship game.
“We knew this season would be tough,” Alta coach Lee Mitchell said. “There are a lot of good programs out there, and Viewmont is one of them. But I also knew these boys were just as tough.”
It is the first back-to-back title for the boys program at Alta, adding an eighth trophy to the trophy case. Interestingly, the girls program also has eight titles, including four straight titles a decade ago. Mitchell has been Alta’s coach for all 16 titles, both boys and girls.
“It never gets old,” Mitchell said of another championship. “Each one is special because these kids are special to me.”
Alta entered the state tournament as the No. 2 seed from Region 7, losing the region title to Brighton.
A win over Wasatch and another against East put the Hawks into the semifinals with Skyline. The Eagles would jump to a seemingly unsurmountable lead over Alta at 3-1. But the Hawks never lost their composure and found a way to close out the game prior to overtime and secure a 4-3 win, sending Alta to the finals.
“That win helped our mental toughness for the title game,” Alta goalkeeper Traven England said. “We knew if we could take a game with those obstacles we could take anything a team could throw at us.”
Alta opened the title game with a flourish, taking control of possession of the ball and trying to find ways through the Viewmont defense.
But it would be Viewmont with the first true shot on goal, a rocket heading straight for the net until England parried it over the crossbar.
Less than a minute later Alta midfielder Jack Anderson mounted his own attack which led to a corner kick. Anderson took the corner kick and sailed it into the box where striker Cole Fassler put it into the back of the net with a one-touch finish.
“We work on that corner play every single day, every single practice,” Fassler said. “I was free in the box right where the ball came and we were able to put it away that time.”
The game got interesting in the second half, with Viewmont dominating possession of the ball. During a 15 minute stretch, England was tested at the net with shot after shot from Viewmont. He deflected a few, including a near point blank shot, and his defenders cleaned up the rest.
“Our defense is not always a brick wall,” England said. “But every one of my defenders would die for me. We are a cohesive unit that plays well together.”
The defense finally gave up the equalizer in the 67th minute when Viewmont scored on a corner kick eerily similar to Alta’s initial goal.
The Hawks had been on their heels prior to the goal, sitting on a one-goal lead. The equalizer gave rise again to the beast that is Alta soccer. No longer settling, the Hawks regained their momentum and battled until regulation ended.
“That goal woke you up,” Mitchell told his charges during the break before overtime. “You went back to playing the way I know you can. Now go finish it off.”
The Hawks took Mitchell’s words to heart. They kept the ball on their attacking half to open overtime. And then it happened.
Three minutes into overtime, Fassler unleashed one of his patented throw-ins. From his vantage point deep in Alta’s attacking half, Fassler selected his spot to deliver the ball.
“He has been our throw-in specialist all year because he can throw the ball nearly as far as others can kick it,” Mitchell said of Fassler.
Fassler’s throw landed in front of Viewmont’s goal, bounced off a defender and into the net, securing Alta’s first back-to-back boys state championships.
“We do that throw-in all the time,” Fassler said. “I just throw it as hard as I can and usually get an assist off of one of our players. This time we got a lucky bounce.”
Lucky? Not when you have a throw-in expert like Fassler. Not when you have a program like Alta’s. Not when you have a coach named Mitchell.