Skip to main content

Murray Journal

Behind a new senior captain, Cottonwood girls soccer rebuilds its program

Oct 12, 2023 01:14PM ● By Brian Shaw

Senior Mary Neilson stepped up as a senior leader being named captain. (Photo courtesy Bryce Harvest)

Cottonwood’s girls soccer team has already accomplished nearly all of the goals it set for itself this past summer, said new coach Bryce Harvest. Mission accomplished on such things as scoring more goals, preventing opponent’s goals, and having more fun. 

“We currently have accomplished every goal we have set from the start of the season which is amazing,” Harvest said. 

But the way that this particular team went about doing things differed, he said. After the Colts notched their second win over Providence Hall, and everything seemed great, the losses started piling up. 

By about the midway point of the season, in a very tough Region 10 in a new and reimagined Class 4A, Cottonwood found itself in a bind.  

That’s when senior Mary Neilson offered to step up and lead the team going forward. 

“[Mary Neilson] has planted the seeds for future successes and stepped up tremendously as a leader for the program,” said the Cottonwood coach, who pointed to a discipline issue that she helped resolve, setting a “precedent for the future.” 

Neilson, who was also named the team captain after several games, has been organizing Cottonwood’s backline since about the midway point of the Colts’ Region 10 season. And she was the catalyst for setting the team rules, according to the coach. 

“It was kind of funny; the coaching staff was worried not giving the full introduction of culture that me and my brother [Colts’ boys head coach BryLee] introduced to the boy’s program, but we had a meeting prior to our second win against Providence where the girls had the opportunity to make rules which was profound,” said the girls coach of his captain Neilson, who has been a part of the program for all four years. “She’s kept me honest, and we’ve been climbing out of the slumps because of that great leadership from her.” 

For Cottonwood [0-9 Region 10, 2-11], it’s been a baptism by fire in a brand-new Region 10 that is littered with tough schools, according to Harvest. In addition to Stansbury, Tooele and Hillcrest, the region now includes crosstown rival Murray, Park City and Jordan. 

That’s where the new Cottonwood head coach said he’s seen his team captain Nielson step up the most—when it’s needed. 

“She’s been stepping up vocally on the field by organizing our backline,” said Harvest, who’s proud of Neilson for taking control of the team in her final year. “Now off the field Mary has been the driving force in keeping the hope of winning alive, and creating team rules, vocally enforcing the rules, and leading by example.” 

At this moment, Cottonwood is barely on the outside looking in at a state playoff spot, according to Harvest. It sits in the 25th spot; the 4A state tournament only takes the top 24 teams. 

Regardless of how that shakes out, Harvest said he believes the program, which is led by a senior in goal and a senior-laden back line, is on much better footing than before when it wasn’t winning any games at all. 

“Many people will probably remember this team by the games we just lost by a goal or two by some of the best teams in the state,” said Harvest, who has a good point—the Colts lost three of their region contests by one mistake. 

“But the coaching staff will remember the successes that I just mentioned that will alter the program.” λ