To say that the Tooele boys soccer team had fallen on tough times in recent seasons would be a vast, vast understatement.
The Buffaloes came into last spring having gone winless in their previous 17 matches — a streak that would grow to 22 before they finally broke through six matches into the 2017 campaign. Coach Stephen Duggan told anyone who would listen that he thought his team had a chance not only to make the postseason for the first time in a decade, but to make an impact once it got there.
Many thought Duggan was being overly optimistic. After all, his team went from April 15, 2015, to March 17, 2017, without so much as a draw, and 17 of those 22 games had been decided by two goals or more. But a strange thing happened — the Buffs started rolling. After starting the season 0-5, Tooele went 4-3-2 over its final nine matches of the regular season, eventually capturing the No. 3 seed in Region 10 with steady — and often spectacular — goalkeeping from senior Jaren Wilson, as well as steady scoring from Hunter Meyer and Balthazar Lozano.
Tooele’s turnaround began with a 2-0 win over region rival Union. The Buffs followed that effort with a 1-1 draw against Carbon and a 4-1 win over Richfield, marking the first time Tooele had gone unbeaten in consecutive games since a four-game winning streak to open the 2015 season. A pair of close losses to Park City and Stansbury were sandwiched around a win over Grantsville to end the first half of the region season.
Tooele played Union to a 1-1 tie on the road before beating Grantsville 2-0 to lock up third place in Region 10. They lost their region finale to Park City, but optimism was high.
“We’ve got to be really, really happy,” Duggan said, noting that his team had given up 57 goals in 2016 compared to 31 in 2017.
The timely scoring and stingy defense continued as Tooele advanced to the first round of the Class 3A state tournament, where the Buffaloes faced Region 12 runner-up North Sanpete on the Hawks’ home field in Mt. Pleasant. Meyer, a freshman, scored a goal in each half, and Wilson was rock-solid as the Buffs beat North Sanpete 2-1 for their first playoff victory since 2003. While their run ended two days later at the hands of Region 9 powerhouse Snow Canyon, it was obvious to anyone who followed the Buffaloes throughout the season that they had grown exponentially — and, with a number of players back from the 2017 team, the 2018 edition promises to be competitive as well.