Judging from the results on the scoreboard, it would be easy to consider 2020 a lost season for the Tooele girls soccer team.
The Buffaloes lost to Juan Diego 2-0 on Wednesday night in Draper — their ninth loss in Region 10 play this season and 10th consecutive overall. Injuries have decimated the Buffs’ lineup, and victories have been hard to come by. However, the Buffs (2-11, 0-9 Region 10) are putting forth the kind of effort that is deserving of a better fate, Tooele coach Stephen Duggan said.
“The only place they lost (Wednesday) was on the scoreboard — they didn’t lose on the field,” Duggan said. “You can’t fault their effort and you can’t fault their performance.”
At the start of Wednesday’s match, Tooele had the host Soaring Eagle (6-8, 4-5) on their heels, putting pressure on Juan Diego in front of its own goal. For the first seven minutes, the Buffaloes dominated possession, but couldn’t find the back of the net to capitalize. Suddenly, the Soaring Eagle gained control of the ball, and after a deflection off a Tooele defender in the 18-yard box, Juan Diego’s Kira Rhay fired a shot past Buffs goalkeeper Britain Stone for a 1-0 lead.
The teams played basically even the rest of the half, with the Eagle maintaining a 1-0 lead. Stone made a couple nice saves to keep Juan Diego from adding to its lead, while Tooele’s Rylee Hogan had a shot from the right wing saved in the 19th minute. Just after halftime, Juan Diego came up with a key goal in the 46th minute by Hailey Mezenen to double its advantage.
Even facing a 2-0 deficit, the Buffaloes kept the pressure on. With nine minutes left in the game, the Buffs had a golden opportunity to score with the Soaring Eagle scrambling in front of their own goal, but couldn’t get a foot on the ball to cut into Juan Diego’s lead.
It has been that kind of season for the Buffs, who played without captains Liz Lundwall and Cami Eldredge because of injury — though Sydnee Gustin has returned to action and made some key defensive plays in the game. Despite having to play with a largely inexperienced roster that is also trying to learn a new system, Tooele has been largely competitive throughout the season. Wednesday’s loss marked the third time Tooele has lost by two goals or fewer in region play, having lost to Juan Diego in penalty kicks and Stansbury in extra time.
That has Duggan optimistic about the remainder of the season and the years to come. He noted that the opportunity to play out the rest of this season, along with playing club soccer in the spring, will only help a team loaded with underclassmen.
Tooele will play host to defending Class 4A state champion Ogden on Monday night at Buffalo Stadium. On Wednesday night, the Buffs will make the short drive up state Route 36 to face county rival Stansbury under the lights at Stallion Stadium.