If you like rematches, this game was for you. If you like sequels, this game was for you. If you like the story of David vs Goliath, this game was for you.
This is the third straight year that Park City and Herriman have faced each other in the Utah Girls Lacrosse Championship game. Park City won the previous two meetings and with an undefeated record in 2019, Park City was favored to win this year as well.
Park City has been the premier team in the state for almost a decade. This year was the 8th straight year that Park City has played in the championship game, with the Miners having won the past 5 State Championships. With a dominate varsity team, a great JV team, and a strong junior league program, Park City is the team that every other team measures themselves by.
Herriman has had plenty of recent success of their own. The Mustangs have built their program over the past few years with one goal in mind, to defeat Park City and be crowned State Champions. Herriman has only lost 5 games over the past 3 years, but 3 of those losses have been by the hands of Park City, including the past two Championship Games.
Herriman knew they would need to start off the game strong and they did just that. However, they did not do it in traditional Herriman fashion. Herriman has been a run-and-gun team this whole season, averaging an astonishing 18.6 goals a game during the regular season and playoffs. Instead of relentlessly pressuring goal as they have done all season, with quick goals on tight interior passing, Herriman elected to spread the field and slow things down to start the game. This strategy worked as Herriman moved the ball around the perimeter, trying to get Park City’s defense off balance. Finally, at the right opportunity, Kenzie Garret drove to goal and was fouled in the 8-meter arc, setting up a free position. Garret calmly scored on her free position shot to put the Mustangs on the board first.
On the ensuing draw, Park City’s Lauren Pederson was given a yellow card as she inadvertently checked a Herriman player in the head with her stick, earning her a 2-minute penalty and giving Herriman a player advantage. Herriman capitalized on the penalty as they scored two quick goals, a driving goal by Aleksa Allen and a quick transition goal when Maddie Kelleher made a quick interior pass to Mya Lightfoot for the goal. This gave Herriman a quick 3-0 lead.
With Pederson now back on the field, she quickly proved her value to the Park City offense as she put the Miners on the board when she scored on a free position goal after a shooting space call to cut the lead to 3-1.
The moment that changed the game happened a few minutes later when Pederson picked up her second yellow card. Pederson drove in with her left hand to set up a drive to goal. She broke free from her defender with a nice roll dodge, but All-State First team defender McKinsey Jeppson slid over and got in defensive position. Without recognizing the Jeppson slide, Pederson shot a low sidearm shot but her follow-through hit Jeppson squarely in the knee with her stick forcing the referee to call a dangerous follow through, giving Pederson her second yellow card.
With two yellow cards, Lauren Pederson was devastated as she was disqualified from the remainder of the game. This changed the dynamics of the game as Pederson is Park City’s top goal scorer and their go-to-girl on securing the draw. With Pederson out of the game, Herriman looked to take full advantage.
Herriman scored again with a fast break goal by Logann Eldridge to put the Mustangs up 4-1. Knowing that Herriman had the lead and momentum, and without one of their star players, Park City called a timeout to regroup with just over 7 minutes left in the half.
After the timeout, Herriman won the draw and again patiently ran their offense. The Mustang coaching staff had obviously changed their game plan specifically for this game, electing for a spread offense and patiently looking for opportunities to score, opposed to their traditional run-and-gun style with quick interior passes. Again, this strategy worked as Lightfoot found an opportunity to drive and found a cutting Eldridge for a fantastic assisted goal to put Herriman up 5-1.
Park City’s Kendall Keblish scored to close the gap to 5-2 as she ripped a free position shot into the top left corner of the goal. But Herriman’s Eldridge scored her third goal of the half as she isolated a Park City defender on the right side and scored after getting the inside on a face dodge.
This gave Herriman a 6-2 lead going into halftime. There was a cautions sense of optimism in the Herriman huddle. They were playing well in all aspects of the game in the first half. However, they were fully aware of their opponent and knew that they couldn’t take them lightly in the second half. Even with Pederson out of the game, Park City had plenty of talent on the field to mount a comeback. In fact, Shaye Henderson, the 2019 Midfield MVP and two time All-American, had yet to score a goal at this point of the game.
Statistically, both teams had their opportunities. In fact, both teams had taken the same amount of shots in the first half, but it was Herriman’s patience that proved to be the difference so far in the game as they shot with a much higher percentage.
Herriman continued their patient and methodical offense in the second half. At this point, their strategy had a secondary purpose, to run valuable time off the clock. Herriman used as much clock as they could before getting into their offense. With the ball out wide on the goal line extended, Lightfoot was able to isolate a Park City defender, and used an inside roll dodge to go right at the goalie. Lightfoot easily scored to give the Mustangs a 7-2 lead.
On their next possession, Herriman spread the ball around once again. But this time, Park City defender Amelia Livingston capitalized on a Herriman miscue and out hustled her opponent for the ground ball. This set up a fast break for Corrine Sullivan who scored a much-needed Park City goal to give us the score of 7-3.
The celebration for Park City was short lived as Eldridge put the Mustangs back up by 5 goals as she scored a free position goal for Herriman.
Just as things were looking bleak for Park City, Keblish drove to goal and was checked to the head by a Herriman defender, giving Park City man up situation. Keblish scored on the free position. Park City scored again when Keblish set up Shaye Henderson for an assisted goal. This was Henderson’s first goal of the game and tightened the score 8-5. Park City was finally starting to gain a little momentum. The next couple of minutes could go a long way in deciding the outcome. Would the experience of Park City be enough to continue their comeback, or would the game plan and pure determination of Herriman be able to hold off a Park City run?
Herriman Coaches elected to take a time out with 7 minutes left in the game. This gave both coaches a chance to give their final instructions and make any last-minute changes for the remainder of the game.
With the 3-goal lead, time was on Herriman’s side. Herriman continued to spread the field and slow the game down. This caused Park City to react by bringing their defense out to pressure the ball. With the Park City defense aggressively pursuing the ball, Aleksa Allen used her speed to drive to goal and was fouled in the 8-meter arc setting up a free position. Allen put the Herriman crowd in a frenzy as she scored on her free position shot. The Herriman team, coaches, and fans started to realize that victory could be just minutes away.
Herriman again won the ensuing draw and patiently worked their offense. Each ball carrier was met by a Park City double team. Herriman again used the aggressive Park City defense to their advantage as Eldridge scored to put Herriman up 10-5 with 4 minutes left. This put the Herriman crowd on their feet as it was now evident that they were going to slay the giant and defeat the Park City team that they had lost to in the previous two championship games.
Park City showed great effort as a championship team to finish out the game, but it was not enough. Park City’s Henderson scored two goals in the final minutes to finish her final high school game with 3 goals. Herriman’s Allen also scored a goal in the final minute to give us a final score of 11-7.
With the final seconds ticking away, the Herriman sideline was full of joy and exhilaration. A sigh of relief for some, screams of joy for others, and the Herriman team ran onto the field when the time on the clock expired. They knew that they did something that no other team had done in 5 previous tries. They beat Park City in a championship game.
Herriman Head Coach Wes Allen was overcome with Joy. “When the clock struck zero, the sense of accomplishment and pride that I felt for these girls that I have watched work so hard for the past 4 years, was overwhelming!” said Coach Allen. “It was amazing because each of them wanted to get the state championship for each other, not for themselves, so to see that come through for the unity of these players, there are no words to describe that feeling. It also made it that much sweeter because we had to fight for this for years!”
Herriman’s coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for their flawless game plan as well as the Herriman players for the trust in their coaches in executing the game plan flawlessly. Coach Allen stated “We decided to slow the tempo because we saw that that was how we would be able to be most effective against Park City’s defense. During the regular season, they were able to cut off our fast breaks effectively and that threw us off of our game plan then, so we knew we needed to plan around that. We came up with a game plan, the girls stuck to it, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Herriman was led by Logann Eldredge with 5 goals on 6 shots as well as one assist. Also scoring for Herriman was Aleksa Allen with 3 goals, Mya Lightfoot with 2 goals and an assist, and Kinzie Garrett with a single goal. Maddie Kelleher set things up for Herriman early in the game with 2 assists. Garrett took all the draws for the Mustangs who won 12 of the 20 draws for a 60% draw percentage.
Park City was led by Shaye Henderson with 3 goals and Kendal Keblish with 2 goals and an assist. Corrine Sullivan and Lauren Pederson also scored a goal for the Miners. Park City’s 7 goals came on eighteen shots to give the Miners a 39% shooting percentage.
While the game did not go as planned for the Park City Miners, they should not hang their heads. They have been the premier team in the state for many years and an example program for other teams. This loss will not define the Park City program or their players. Even though a few key players graduate, Park City will still have the talent and depth in their program to compete for a championship next year.