SANDY — All playoff season long, the Ogden girls soccer team had one goal and that was to win the state championship.
The Tigers were so focused on the end goal that a hug and a high-five sufficed as the biggest celebration in any of their state tournament wins leading up to Friday’s 4A state championship game against Ridgeline.
The sun was setting and the streaks of light hitting the field were disappearing.
The clock at Rio Tinto Stadium hit zero and the Tigers could finally, finally celebrate and let it all out.
They beat Ridgeline 2-1, winning the school’s third state title in girls soccer and the first since 2011.
Senior midfielder Alysia Butters, the team’s leading scorer with 24 goals coming into Friday, smashed a penalty kick into the top left corner of the goal in the 71st minute to break a deadlock and give Ogden the final advantage.
“Honestly it doesn’t feel real, it’s crazy. That was a really hard game and they played so good and we were lucky to get that PK, but it was a great game,” Butters said. “Ever since the beginning, we wanted to focus on our end goal and that was getting here and winning it. I don’t think we were ever fully happy with the playoff games until we won this one.”
If there was a theme from the three state soccer championship games Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium, it was that the team that made one less mistake would win.
Fans saw it firsthand with the Davis-American Fork and Bonneville-Skyline games earlier Friday. They saw it again with the 4A title game in the nightcap.
In the 27th minute, Ogden’s Bonita Gray, who had just been substituted on to the field maybe 20 seconds prior, jostled for the ball just inside the penalty box and sent a shot toward the goal.
The Ridgeline keeper spilled the ball, Gray raced onto it and scored into an open net.
“I’m still in shock that it went in,” Gray said. “I’d just got subbed in, I went forward and then there it was,” Gray said.
Ogden was a deserved leader at halftime, but Region 11 champion Ridgeline came back and scored through Tenzi Knowles in the 64th minute. It was game on once again.
But where Ogden’s attack was lacking a certain Abby Beus element on the right side in the first half, the Tigers started to find the speedy junior more in the second half.
Beus created a couple of scoring chances for other players that Riverhawks’ defenders blocked away, but her speed down the right eventually was too much and she was hauled down in the box for a penalty kick.
Butters, who says she always hits her aimed penalty kicks on the left side of the goal, did just that and gave Ogden the lead.
“I felt really calm, it was weird. But I was — as soon as the ball left my foot I felt way better, but of course I was nervous,” Butters said.
The win caps a season in which Ogden hit its stride relatively early, thanks to having several returning starters and contributors from a pretty good team in 2018.
After a season-opening loss to Syracuse, the Tigers won their next seven games by a combined score of 44-5. They eventually won the Region 10 championship as nobody could find a way to silence their high-powered scoring attack.
Not even Green Canyon in the semifinals nor Ridgeline in the title game could figure out how to stop Ogden, either.
“They’re special, I knew they were special from the beginning of the season,” Ogden head coach Skylar Stam said. “I never told them not to celebrate. I never told them not to be happy, they did all that on their own, which is exactly the mentality this team has, which is exactly why I knew that this team was a force to be reckoned with from the beginning.”
Then came the celebration more than two months in the making: pictures with the trophy, hugs, smiles, tears and singing the fight song with their classmates.
“This team is everything. I’m not surprised that we won. All of our hard work this season from summer to now and how much belief we have in each other is just incredible,” Gray said.