The Tooele Unified Soccer team has made a name for itself as one of the best in the state every year, winning championships and having plenty of fun along the way.
On Saturday at Skyridge High School in Lehi, the Buffaloes did it again. For the fourth year in a row, the state championship came back to Tooele, as the Buffs beat the Hillcrest Huskies 3-1 in the championship game thanks to two goals by Ivy Olcott and another by Cendan Dillon. The Buffs also beat Hillcrest 4-1 in the semifinals and Bingham 8-0 in the quarterfinals as part of their run through the state tournament.
“We have been successful because of the great team chemistry we have had this year and in years past,” Tooele coach Pat Ciervo said. “My expectations are high for everyone, and they keep rising to the occasion year after year.”
The championship game featured the Buffaloes at their best. Tooele got its first goal of the game within the first two minutes on a picture-perfect goal by Olcott that was set up by a pair of beautiful crossing passes by Dillon and Matthew Perkins. Ivy Olcott and Dillon added goals later in the game, and goalkeeper Nathan Olcott and the Tooele defense kept the Huskies from coming back.
The Buffaloes lived up to Ciervo’s goals, which consist of: No. 1, play up to your best; No. 2, have fun; and No. 3, have more fun. That made for an enjoyable regular season that included wins over Grantsville (3-1), Brighton (8-0), Riverton (8-0), Skyridge (8-0), Bingham (8-0) and Alta (8-0), as well a forfeit win over Spanish Fork before the state tournament.
“Winning four straight state championships has been fun and very rewarding,” Ciervo said. “But what really excites me is the team interaction, desire to work together, desire to help each other, great sportsmanship (and) the way they represent themselves and Tooele High School. Great friendships have emerged year after year.”
The Buffs’ co-captains this year were Ivy Olcott, a key part of Tooele’s attack, and Paden Jolley, the team’s only senior. Jolley scored five goals in Tooele’s quarterfinal win over Bingham, and Ciervo noted that his positive attitude “has always been a great influence on this team for four years.” Lewis Lloyd, Nathaniel Ellis, Andrew Perkins and Lucky Holcomb were key defenders for the Buffaloes, along with Jolley. Nathan Olcott was the team’s starting goalkeeper, and he combined with backup Grady Morris to allow just three goals all season.
Offensively, Dillon was “the focal point” of Tooele’s attack, Ciervo said. Ivy Olcott, Matthew Perkins, Ashlynn High, Shannon Nowotny, Elias Winegar and Morris also were important parts of the Buffaloes’ offense in addition to having to get back to play defense. Dillon scored twice in the semifinal win over Hillcrest, with Matthew Perkins and Morris each scoring a goal as well.
Tooele had to adjust to several rule changes this year, including a change to the state tournament that meant they had to win an additional game in order to win the championship. However, they managed to make it work.
“Each year — each game, it seems — we are getting new rules or things thrown at us,” Ciervo said. “The team accepts those challenges and just keeps on winning. Another concept I try to teach them is that ‘a True Champion Can Adapt to Anything’ — they have proven this over the years and especially this year.”
Unified Soccer is a program co-sponsored by Special Olympics Utah and the Utah High School Activities Association, creating an opportunity Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities to compete alongside partner athletes without intellectual disabilities. According to Special Olympics Utah, the philosophy behind Unified Sports includes social inclusion, meaningful involvement of all teammates playing together and respecting teammates and others on and off the field of play.