Snow Canyon girls soccer controls its own destiny.
Following a 2-1 win over Desert Hills on Thursday night, the Warriors sit at the top of Region 10 at 8-1.
Under first-year head coach Connor Brown, the Warriors are just a win away from capturing a region title.
Brown took over for Nyle Ortiz, who lasted just one year after replacing Kenneth Kunde.
Kunde led Snow Canyon to a state title in 2018.
A year ago, it was the Thunder who upset Snow Canyon in the playoffs 3-0 on the Warriors’ home turf.
Even by beating Desert Hills 2-1 in overtime earlier this year, Brown and his team still felt the sting of last year’s loss.
“We talked about that a little bit. We knew that this would be our biggest game. We looked forward to it,” he said. “Now we can put it behind us and look forward to the next game. But yeah, the girls were hungry for this win.”
Added junior Ashlee Harris, “We also used that as energy and fire towards because we don’t want that to happen again.”
The Warriors fell behind in both contests against Desert Hills this year, and twice they mounted a comeback to earn hard-fought wins.
“Both times we’ve played them I’ve been extremely pleased with the effort we’ve put in,” Brown said. “It’s start to finish, it’s 100%. It’s a fast-paced game because this is another really good team. But the girls were prepared mentally, we had a game plan and they executed it perfectly.”
Through the first 15 minutes, neither side could find much offense on Thursday night.
Then, in the 29th minute, Andrea Gaona potted a rebound to give Desert Hills the first strike.
Following Gaona’s tally, the Snow Canyon bench seemed down, with little energy.
Entering the second half, the Warriors’ energy was reignited, and it didn’t take long for Snow Canyon to get back to even.
In the 44th minute, Snow Canyon earned a corner kick, and junior Lilly Wittwer found Chloe Vowell, who headed home the corner to tie the game at 1-1.
“We were very excited. We were like ‘we have to come out and get shots in’,” said Harris of the team’s halftime adjustments. “After we got that first one in, we just got this huge momentum. We got the energy up, but those last ten minutes were really tight.”
Less than a minute later, it was Harris who scored the game-winning goal.
“I was dribbling down the sideline, and the second defender turned her back, so I took a touch in and finished with my right to the top corner,” she said.
Harris paces the Warriors in goals with 14 and has a team-high 32 points on the year. Harris led Snow Canyon in both categories last year as a sophomore and was a 4A All-State honorable mention in 2021.
“Mentally probably one of our toughest,” Brown said. “Always wants the ball and always wants a goal. You can see when she gets the ball, she wants to take defenders on. She’s confident in her own ability and part of our game plan is to find the space that she can get the ball in those spaces where she can make things happen for us.”
In those final 10 minutes, Desert Hills pushed its forwards up, and came within inches to sending the game into overtime.
The Thunder earned a free kick from over 20 yards out, and head coach Benji Nelson rested the game on the foot of his best player.
Utah State commit Ellie Hendrix took the free kick and hit the far post square, and the ball stayed out.
Sporting an 8-1 record, Snow Canyon is just one win away from the region title.
As challenging as Desert Hills is, Snow Canyon faces Cedar on Tuesday. The Reds are responsible for the Warriors’ lone region loss.
Cedar’s two-headed attack of Rylan Tebbs and Keana Tolman came away with a 4-3 win in Cedar City earlier this month.
“We just have to reset. Go back to the foundations of how we play the game,” Brown said. “Cedar isn’t as used to the turf, and we hope to exploit that. We just need to control the ball and control the tempo of the game and let the girls do their thing.”
Tolman is third in the state in goals with 22. She scored two goals and added two assists in the earlier matchup against Snow Canyon. Tolman has scored a goal in 12 out of 13 games for the Reds.
Brown’s team is ready for the challenge come Tuesday.
“This is what we’ve worked for.”
Sean Ellertson is a sports reporter for the St. George Spectrum & Daily News. To continue to support his work, please subscribe to The Spectrum. Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanEllertson.