Morgan girls soccer hangs on in semifinals and advances to 4th state title game in 5 seasons
Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner
SANDY — Thursday, the Morgan High girls soccer team played in its fifth state semifinal in a row, this time facing charter school Real Salt Lake Academy High School at Jordan High.
The main difference this year for the Trojans, compared to previous playoff teams, is the amount of sophomores and freshmen that have been starting all season.
Youth, inexperience and how Morgan would get past them were big concerns at the start of the year for MHS coach Bryan Searle. But come Saturday, the Trojans will still be in the tournament.
They scored early in both the first and second halves to beat the Griffins 2-1 and advance to Saturday’s title game at Rio Tinto Stadium, though Thursday’s win may be remembered more for the goals that weren’t scored by RSL that could’ve changed the outcome.
Morgan goalkeeper Miya Turner made several key saves throughout the game, keeping a 1-0 lead on the board at halftime for the Trojans and keeping a 2-0 lead on the board for most of the second half until the Griffins finally broke the door down after several attempts.
Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner
Turner is the backup keeper and started the match due to an injury sustained by Madison Wangsgard. Turner herself had appendix surgery this month, and Morgan coach Bryan Searle said he wasn’t sure if Turner would be ready for Thursday’s game.
“I’m not gonna lie, I was really nervous. I’ve been stressing about it ever since our starting goalkeeper was out, but I knew if the team came together it would work out,” Turner said.
“I knew coming into this game it was gonna be hard, and I was worried. I didn’t want to let my team down, I just came back from a surgery, and I didn’t want to let anyone down, that was my biggest fear,” Turner added.
Aspen Telford hit a blistering shot with her left foot, which Searle said she injured on Saturday against Juan Diego, into the top corner in the fifth minute to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead, a lead they were equal parts fortunate and unfortunate to have at halftime.
Freshman forward Lacie Poll — Searle said that Poll would’ve started at keeper if Turner wasn’t ready to go Thursday — had two one-on-one chances in the first half, both of which were saved by the Griffins goalkeeper. Any one of which easily could’ve gone through and made it a 2-0 lead.
Turner made a reflex save to keep a well-hit RSL header out of the goal just two minutes before halftime to keep RSL Academy from knotting the game up at 1-1.
“I saw the ball coming in and, our keeper coach always says your body has to move like jello. I saw the ball going down and I knew I had to go there,” Turner said.
“Your body’s gotta be free to move any way that the ball goes,” Turner said.
Three minutes after the second-half restart, Trojans senior Brecklee Charlton poked in a rebounded shot at the far post to make it 2-0. A few minutes later, Turner saved a one-time opportunity in the box that kept the 2-0 lead intact.
Eventually, the Griffins got on the scoreboard in the 62nd minute and chased the game, now a 2-1 scoreline, down the stretch.
“Our freshmen, especially Emma Toone and Lacie Poll, have came in and play like they’re juniors and seniors. That’s a testament to how hard they work out there and they’re very coachable,” Searle said.
The Griffins had a penalty kick attempt in the 78th minute, but the kick rocketed off the underside of the crossbar and was eventually cleared out, but not without plenty of late nerves.
Morgan will now play for its fourth state title in five seasons; the Trojans are 3-0 in state championship games since this streak began (2017, 2018, 2020).