Murray High’s girls soccer make school history with best season ever
Oct 25, 2018 04:44PM
● By Jana Klopsch
The Murray High girls soccer team kneels before the 5A state championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium. Though the Spartans finished second, it was their best season in school history. (Justin Adams/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
Murray High School head girls’ soccer coach Brady Smith was quietly confident he had a strong group of athletes on his hands, after selecting his 2018 team last summer.
But he had no idea they would make school history, on their way to the Spartans’ best season ever.
“I am so happy with all the hard work this group put in and all they have accomplished,” Smith said. “Their work ethic was incredible, they got along so well together and they raised each other’s levels of play. This year’s team has lifted our program, I think, for years to come. I am extremely proud of them all.”
You can’t get much higher praise. But then it’s not every day, or every year, a Murray High School team advances to the state championship game, in any sport.
Smith believes — but isn’t entirely certain — Murray High girls began playing official, sanctioned soccer in 1992.
What he is certain of… until this year, the Spartans had never, ever won a post-season game.
October saw them rattle off three playoff wins — in just one week’s time — to advance to the Class 5A state championship at Sandy’s Rio Tinto Stadium.
“It feels so amazing to have had such a good season,” Murray freshman Sammie Sofonia said during the post season. “I thought we could be pretty good, but I wasn’t sure. And I did not think I would have the kind of season I did personally. So, it is great.”
Sammie shocked her coach as well. Despite not even yet attending Murray High (the ninth grader still attends Riverview Junior High School), Sammie led the Spartans in scoring with 20 regular season goals. The team’s next two leading scorers — junior Sydney Wilcken and senior Abbi Graham — scored only three more than that, combined.
“Sammie was a huge surprise for us,” Smith said. “She is a strong athlete who grabbed her opportunity and ran with it. But she was just one of many outstanding contributors on this team.”
The Murray girls ended their regular season ranked No. 1 by the Deseret News, with an overall record of 13-1-1. The Spartans’ Region 6 championship record was 9-0-1, the only blemish a tie with Olympus.
The girls’ first-ever playoff victory came on the Murray High School football field against the fourth-seeded Alta Hawks. It did not come easy, as the game was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and after two, 10-minute overtime sessions.
In the sudden death shootout, Murray scored on three straight shots while Alta was stymied by sophomore Spartan goal keeper Alexis Bates. At that point the game ended. Alta could not catch Murray with their final two shots. The Spartans had that historic first playoff victory.
“It was really hard; my stress level went up so high during the shootout,” Bates said. “This team has worked so hard all year, I did not want to let them down. I can’t believe how incredible it feels to get this first playoff win for Murray High.”
Little did Alexis — or any of her teammates — know, but two more playoff victories would follow, each less nerve-racking than that first one. The Spartans breezed past Roy High School in the quarterfinals 5-1, and held off the Timpview Thunderbirds 1-0 in a state semifinal win at Juan Diego High School.
Those three straight victories, over eight days, propelled Murray into the Class 5A state championship game — against the only team that had beaten them all season.
“Our only losses were bookends to our season,” Smith concluded. “We lost our first game of the year, 3-0, at Corner Canyon and then lost our final game — the state championship — to the same team, 2-1, at Rio Tinto. No one else beat us all year.”
The Murray girls soccer team ended the season with a record of 16-2-1. Their lone goal in the championship was scored by junior Sydney Wilcken.
“Of course, the loss is disappointing, but the season, and even the championship game, was so exciting,” Wilcken said. “Our drill team, cheerleaders, even the football team gave us such a great sendoff (at Murray HS) before we left for the game. And then our crowd was so big, easily double what Corner Canyon had. It was the biggest crowd I have ever played in front of. We just came up a little bit short.”
Sixth-year head coach Smith — who has now guided the Murray girls into the state soccer tournament, four straight years — faces a rebuild next season, with the loss of seven seniors, six of them starters.
Top three Spartan goal scorer Abbi Graham is among those who will collect diplomas and move on.
“Oh my gosh, I am so proud of our team and the way we came together this season,” Graham said, during their four-game playoff run. “This was the best comradery I have ever had on a team. It feels so good to do this well and to make school history.”