Wednesday afternoon marked the first time Tooele and Cedar Valley have ever met on the soccer pitch, but it didn’t take long for the rivalry between the Region 10 girls soccer squads to develop.
The first-year Aviators came in to Tooele and came away with a 4-2 victory over the host Buffaloes in the first region game of the season for both teams, with intense, physical play ruling the day and emotions simmering just below the surface.
However, Tooele coach Stephen Duggan couldn’t bring himself to be upset even in a loss.
“In terms of effort and in terms of everything they brought, you couldn’t ask for any more from your team than to go out and leave everything on the field,” Duggan said. “I thought they were fantastic today. They took knocks and bangs and kept getting up and going right back at it. The reward for me is seeing every player that played for us today go out there and give it 110%, and not let themselves down. You’ve got to give them huge credit for the effort they put in.”
Tooele (3-2, 0-1 Region 10) needed all of 40 seconds to get the fireworks started. Liz Lundwall took a pass from teammate Makenna McCloy, cut in from the right side and put a shot into the lower left corner of the net to put the Buffs ahead 1-0. The Aviators (2-2, 1-0) began peppering Tooele goalkeeper Maddy Lyman with long shots, but they didn’t truly threaten for most of the first 20 minutes.
In fact, Tooele had the best chance of all in that stretch, as Lundwall took another pass from McCloy and rolled a shot toward the left post that seemed destined for her second goal of the match in the 13th minute. However, the ball ran out of steam as it neared the net, and it slipped just wide, much to Duggan’s dismay.
Seven minutes later, Cedar Valley got the equalizer, as sophomore Presley Devey weaved her way through the Tooele defense and tucked the ball past Lyman. But the Buffs kept the pressure on the Aviators’ defense and goalkeeper Saige Meryhew, as Lundwall just missed the right post on a great individual effort in the 27th minute and McCloy clanged a free kick off the crossbar in the 29th.
Devey took advantage of a miscue by the Buffaloes’ defense to put the Aviators ahead 2-1 in the opening minute of the second half. That seemed to take the wind out of the Buffs’ sails for a few minutes, and helped lead to Devey’s third goal of the game in the 51st minute.
“If we would have gone into halftime 3-1 up, it wouldn’t have been an injustice, I don’t think,” Duggan said. “The one thing you don’t want to do at the start of the second half is concede (a goal). It puts you on the back foot, and then you’re kind of chasing and heads go down a little bit, which is natural, and then you go 3-1 down.”
Meanwhile, tensions began to boil over between the two teams, with coaches and school administrators engaging in spirited conversations on the sideline as the match became more intense. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, however.
“If you can’t be passionate about sport, why are you involved in it in the first place? (Afterward) you go up, you shake hands, you say congratulations and you move on,” Duggan said.
Tooele began to get its game going again as the second half continued, with Lundwall and McCloy using their speed to keep the Aviators’ defense busy. The pressure paid off in the 74th minute, when Cedar Valley was whistled for a handball inside the 18-yard box. McCloy scored on the ensuing penalty kick to pull the Buffs within a goal.
Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, the comeback wasn’t to be, thanks to a stellar effort by Devey for her fourth goal of the afternoon in the 79th minute. A perfectly placed chip found its way inside the left post and past Lyman, providing the final margin.
“That’s not one of those games where you lose and you’re disappointed,” Duggan said. “They’ve got a really, really good player up top. (Devey is) top-notch. She’ll be an All-State player, there’s no question about it. You can tell just by watching her today. She’s not easy to defend against, and it’s a lesson learned for the next game.”
Tooele’s next match is Monday in Vernal, when the Buffs will face Uintah in another Region 10 match. The Buffaloes will take on Juan Diego on Sept. 3 in Draper, with their next home match scheduled for Sept. 5 against Ogden.