ST. GEORGE – Prior to Friday night, it had been a long time since the Dixie High girls soccer team had tasted defeat. To be exact, 364 days, 18 matches and one state championship had passed since the Flyers last fell — a 3-1 loss to Springville on Aug. 16, 2013.
However, a new season brings new challenges, and the Flyers experienced that firsthand Friday during a 2-0 loss to Lehi — one year to the day from when the Pioneers topped Dixie, 3-2.
“You play good teams to find out where you’re weak, and we found out three different areas where we need big improvement, and they’re fixable areas, so I’m OK with it,” Dixie head coach Burt Myers said. “It’s preseason, I played a lot of girls, I see some individual things I can work on with them, and as a group I see what we need to do and what we need to work on.”
The Flyers put up a good fight, despite losing six seniors off last year’s championship team, and playing without leading returning goal-scorer Aubri Challis who was nursing a hamstring injury after tearing her ACL in the offseason.
It was a back and forth affair for nearly 30 minutes, but the Pioneers eventually broke through in the in 27th minute when Ashlyn Zentner took a nice pass, slipped behind the defense, and beat Dixie keeper Taylor Whitson one-on-one.
Whitson, a junior, is new to soccer after primarily playing basketball, and is still learning the nuances of life on the pitch.
“This is her very first time ever playing keeper. …We can strengthen her in a couple of areas, but she made a couple nice saves. I’m excited for her,” Myers said.
After the intermission, the Flyers turned up the heat, producing multiple corner kicks and putting the pressure on Lehi keeper Kirstin Josie.
Dixie was unable to capitalize on the chances though, as a header by Alexa Estridge went just wide. Shortly after, Estridge was able to penetrate the defense, but her attempt was rejected backwards. Senior Cassidy Gray gathered the ball and fired a shot from 35 yards out that had to be tipped away by a diving Josie.
More chances ensued, but the Flyers could not manufacture the equalizer. Lehi put the game out of reach in the 69th minute when Reagan Shepherd got behind the defense and fired the ball past Whitson as she came out to defend.
“Once we got rid of those first half nerves, first game nerves, I felt like the second half we were able to step up a little bit and actually relax and be able to get some shots off and be able to at least attack their side,” Estridge said.
“I feel like our ideas were there, but our feet weren’t necessarily connected to our heads. We had good ideas and good intentions, we just have to be able to act on those good ideas.”
Despite Dixie’s first loss in a year, it may be a good omen. After all, the Flyers started off 2013 with a loss to Lehi, and things worked out OK.
“Why do you think I scheduled them first,” joked Myers. “I’m not superstitious, I just like to make sure.”
EAST 2, THUNDER 1
One night removed from euphoria of an exhilarating victory, Desert Hills suffered the agony of defeat as East broke a 1-1 tie with a goal in the final 10 seconds of regulation.
“It’s unfortunate, but those things happen,” Thunder head coach Shaley Allen said. “It’s one of those things that you have to play until the very last whistle. We let it slip away, but it’s something we can learn from.”
A second-half goal by Brittany Terry knotted things up with the Leopards, but it wasn’t quite enough as the last second goal ended the game.
“We invited some big schools down here this week because we wanted to play at a higher competitive level to get ready for Region 9,” Allen said. “I’m very happy with many things, but there are lots of things we still need to work on.”
Desert Hills will return to action Tuesday when the Thunder host Cottonwood at 6 p.m.
Follow Tim Olsen on Twitter, @TheRealTO.