Regardless of their records, it always means just a little bit more when the Stansbury and Tooele girls soccer teams meet.
On Thursday afternoon at Stansbury High School, that intensity was on full display yet again as the Stallions and Buffaloes met for the first of two times this season. Thanks to a three-goal outburst in the first half, Stansbury went on to defeat Tooele 4-0 in a crucial game to both teams’ playoff hopes as the first half of the Region 11 season comes to a close.
“We know we’re a good team and we play as a good team,” Stansbury coach Jeremy Alverson said. “When we play together like today, we beat a lot of teams in our region.”
Stansbury (4-5, 2-3 Region 11) got on the board in the sixth minute on a long shot from McCall Littlefield that slipped through Tooele goalkeeper Maddy Lyman’s outstretched hands from the left wing. It was the fourth goal of the season for the Stallions’ senior captain and broke her six-game goalless streak.
“I had an open shot and I knew I could make it,” Littlefield said. “The shot maybe wasn’t the best, but when the keeper’s not expecting it, that’s what you get.”
The Stallions added to their lead in the 17th minute on a nice feed from Littlefield to Reagan Didericksen. Lyman tried to come off her line as Didericksen came in down the right side, but couldn’t get there quick enough to stop her from scoring. Ten minutes later, Aubree Cheney made it 3-0 off a corner kick by Maddy Graber that had Lyman scrambling to get back in position.
Stansbury nearly had a fourth goal in the 34th minute, but it was disallowed when senior Mia Babcock collided with the goalkeeper as she put the ball in the net near the top of the 18-yard box.
All three goals in the first half were the product of miscues by the inexperienced Buffaloes (2-6-1, 1-4), which Tooele coach Stephen Duggan said made the game seem more lopsided than it really was.
“The first three goals should have never went in — it should have been nil-nil at halftime,” Duggan said. “That’s sport, and you take it on the chin. We got the ball forward plenty of times, but we just weren’t very productive up top today at all.”
To its credit, Tooele didn’t give up despite trailing by three entering the second half. The Buffs had several chances to put a goal of their own on the board, with their best opportunities coming from Makenna McCloy and Makayla Komer late in the game. Littlefield hit the crossbar early in the half for Stansbury and leading scorer Mackenzie Landward had a couple shots miss wide before Didericksen scored her second of the game off a feed from Graber in the 63rd minute.
The win allowed Stansbury to keep pace in the battle for a postseason berth in Region 11, and provided them with a much-needed confidence boost after having lost five of their past six games.
“We knew we could win,” Littlefield said. “It was just a matter of if we could come out and bring the game we know we can bring, which we did. In the past, we’ve been not playing to our full potential. Today, that little extra motivation gave us what we needed.”
Alverson was particularly pleased with Thursday’s effort.
“I’m really happy that we got a shutout,” he said. “We’ve had a couple girls go down — a lot of injuries back there. I rotated back through the back line more than usual, and just the composure of the back line and our freshman keeper (Ainsley Thurber) back there — I felt like she was calm and poised for a big game like that.”
Tooele enters the second half of the season with just one region victory. However, with such a young team, Duggan was still pleased with the Buffs’ progress to this point.
“When you’re on the end of a 4-0 game, people will see the scoreline and say, ‘that must have been an easy game,’” Duggan said. “That’s not the reality. How many teams are 3-nil down away from home and just roll over and die? They didn’t. They gave it a go and they tried and they tried and they tried. They’re better than what they showed today, which is encouraging.”
Stansbury, which lost 7-0 to Bonneville on Monday to wrap up the first half of the region season, will face Juan Diego on Wednesday in Draper. Tooele will play Bonneville on the road Wednesday.