PLAIN CITY — Fremont High’s girls soccer team is the No. 13 seed in the 6A state playoffs.
That hasn’t mattered to the Silverwolves, who have dispatched seeds No. 4 and No. 5 ahead of their Tuesday semifinal clash with American Fork, the No. 1 seed.
Their leading goalscorer wasn’t planning on wearing a Fremont uniform this fall, but a financial decision made in April from a Château-esque style mansion in Chicago meant Payten Ivins played for the Silverwolves this season and to say the least, it’s been a good re-addition.
Ivins leads the team with 23 goals, including a golden-goal winner in Fremont’s second-round playoff win at No. 4 Herriman as well as an early goal in the Silverwolves 2-1 win at No. 5 Lone Peak.
Ivins torched the nets with nine goals the first three games of the year, all of which were Silverwolves wins where her goals were numerically the deciding factor.
“Yeah I’ve put in the final poke, but I think without (the team) helping me build up and us as a team, we’ve come such a long way from preseason. I think it’s really showing that we’re here to win it all and we’re not going to give it up right now,” Ivins said.
The goalscoring has been a welcome sight for a Silverwolves team that’s struggled to find the back of the net the past three years. Currently, Fremont players have tallied 53 goals this year.
That’s more than the last two seasons combined (49) and it’s the most since 2016’s state runner-up team (57), which is the last time Fremont got this far in the state playoffs.
One of the most common ways Ivins has scored her goals this season goes something like this: Ivins plays as a forward on the left side, someone in the midfield sends a through ball to her, Ivins sprints past the defender, cuts in and shoots low past the other team’s goalkeeper.
“She can take people 1-v-1 and her speed is just next level,” Fremont head coach Kelly Parke said.
Ivins didn’t play for Fremont last year. Instead, she played for the La Roca Development Academy team. The D.A., as it is and was called, was under the umbrella of U.S. Soccer’s Developmental Academy program.
In April, U.S. Soccer pulled the plug on the Developmental Academy program due to COVID-19. Ivins had planned to play at the D.A. this year, but the change meant she returned to Fremont High where she played as a sophomore in 2018.
The same thing happened for dozens of teams in the area, many of which saw anywhere from 1-10 players on their rosters this fall who otherwise would’ve played on the club level.
“Playing with my friends again ... we do everything together and that made me really excited to be back with them,” she said.
Playing at the club level for a year helped Ivins improve her speed of play — things like knowing when to take only one touch with the ball, knowing when to get rid of the ball or keep it, and making quicker decisions. These are things she says have really helped her this season.
“It’s made a huge difference to our team and you know what, it’s opened the field for other players so much beyond what I ever imagined. (Other teams) have to respect her so much and double-team her so much that it’s created opportunities for others as well,” Parke said.
The other thing every team has to contend with at Rio Tinto is the size of the field.
A regulation high school soccer field — with minimum dimensions of 100 yards long and 55 yards wide — is much narrower than a professional field, which has minimum dimensions of 110 yards long and 70 yards wide.
It happens every year: teams show up at Rio Tinto Stadium’s wider field and have a lot more space to run in as well as a lot more space to account for.
“It changes everything. It changes how we have to rotate subs, it changes how wide we have to play, or can play. I mean, the whole game is different,” Parke said.
On paper, Fremont’s 11-8 overall record makes many wonder how the Silverwolves got this far.
“(In years past), you try to go out and win every game, right? I didn’t care this year. I didn’t try to win every game. I took pieces of what we wanted to build and we worked on it for the first two games,” Parke said.
“And we added another piece, and we worked on it for the next couple of games.”
It was unpopular, to say the least.
“I definitely heard comments from the stands when we were working really on super possessing the ball to the point where it didn’t make sense. I told (the players) to ignore it and do what we were doing and we would get better,” Parke said.
All year, the team wanted to play at Rio Tinto Stadium and, though the semifinals weren’t previously scheduled to be held at Real Salt Lake’s stadium, the Silverwolves aren’t complaining about being able to walk onto the pitch.
Tuesday, Oct. 20 at Rio Tinto Stadium
(2) Bonneville vs. (6) Skyline, 1 p.m.
It’s a rematch of last year’s 5A state championship game that Skyline won 2-1 in extra time.
Bonneville is the only team not from Region 6 in the semifinals, with Murray and Olympus contesting the other semifinal.
The Lakers are seeking their fourth state title in school history (2008, 2010, 2012), as are the Eagles.
Bonneville nearly went to extra time last week against Timpanogos before Maddie Callahan scored with a couple minutes remaining.
(13) Fremont vs. (1) American Fork, 4 p.m.
The girls soccer season started on Aug. 4.
Ever since then, American Fork has been the prohibitive favorite to repeat as 6A state champions after the Cavemen beat Davis 1-0 in last year’s final.
The Silverwolves (11-8) have already shown they’re up to the task against higher-seeded opposition after beating No. 4 Herriman and No. 5 Lone Peak.
“Like I told the girls, if we have the ball, we decide what happens. But, American Fork is a very good team,” Parke said.
He paused for a while after that statement. Lone Peak and Herriman might’ve been good teams, but American Fork is a different kind of good.
The Cavemen are 17-2 overall and won Region 4, odds-on the most difficult and competitive region in the whole state.
“We got our hands full,” he said. “But we had our hands full the last two games, too.”
(2) Davis vs. (6) Pleasant Grove, 7 p.m.
This is a rematch of last year’s 6A semifinals when the Darts scored a goal from a chaotic free kick to beat the Vikings 1-0.
PG is the No. 6 seed and though it is “down” from last year, the Vikings still beat Layton 2-1, a Lancers team that split the this year’s season series with Davis.
The winner will play in Friday’s 8 p.m. title game at Rio Tinto Stadium. Davis last won the state title in 2016 while PG has never won a girls soccer state championship.