Hillcrest soccer goes 3-1 in pre-season, starts region playAug 30, 2021 03:30PM ● By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
In the season opener, senior forward Grace Pruden scored two goals and had a pair of assists as the Hillcrest High Huskies beat Gunnison Valley on the road, 11-0.
She was one of six players who scored in the opening game.
“We just spread the love; everyone got a goal,” she said.
Huskies coach Eldon Brough, in his third year, was happy that several players scored.
“We want to be a team where we can beat you with a lot of different people in different positions and be very unselfish and the girls did a good job with that,” he said. “They kept their energy up and kept playing hard and we were really happy with all they were trying to play together offensively and be really dynamic and aggressive. I was really pleased with the girls; they were, by no means, content with what they’ve done; they could recognize the areas that they could improve.”
One area of improvement is to adjust to a more offensively-minded emphasis on style of play this year, Brough said.
“We switched up our formation, kind of our style of play a little bit this year. We’re going to be a much more attacking team. We’re just scratching the surface on becoming more comfortable with having that many opportunities. With this new formation we’re playing and having more people in the attack, they’re just going to get better at it. It should be very realistic to score a lot more goals, but we still want to try to be a good defensive team. Every position has to be more committed to getting back defensively. We hope to win a lot of games and be able to make some noise come October in the playoffs,” he said.
Pruden, who is the team captain along with seniors Allysa Rogers and Havana Chamberlain and junior Teya Snowder, said that the team played with more confidence than in the past.
“We’re going to be a lot better than last year because we’ve got 10 of our 11 varsity starters returning, so super excited about that,” she said. “I think chemistry is really good this year because (about) everyone’s returning.”
Last year’s goalkeeper, Ashby Worth, graduated; senior Isabella Andrews was expected to fill the position until she tore her ACL last spring during a club soccer game.
“At first we were pretty concerned. Bella is a good player, and we were excited to have her play. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with Addy (Back); she’s got a lot of potential, she’s comfortable right there and confident and doesn’t get rattled,” Brough said, adding that the Huskies also have two other younger players who play keeper.
The freshman keeper during the Gunnison game during her first high school game, used her club experience to hold the opponent scoreless.
Game two, two days later at home, Pruden had another pair of assists and scored another goal to beat Union High 5-1 and start the team off with a winning record. Each of the five goals was scored by a different student-athlete.
Game three, at West High, Pruden scored two goals to take the Huskies to victory, 2-1.
It was Pruden’s freshman year that was the last time the Huskies had a winning record; they went 7-1 in league play in region 2, 6A that year.
The past two seasons, Hillcrest only amassed a total of three wins as region 6, players and coaches say, is was one of the most competitive.
“Obviously, the last region we were in was really difficult for us, but I think it helped us grow as a team because we were playing the best teams in the state, like state champions were from our region, year after year,” Pruden said. “So that was really good for us just to play some better competition and to improve because of that. Now, we’re in a region that is a little more our speed; we’re on the other end of things. We have that experience so we can take that and apply it to this region.”
The Huskies are now playing in 5A region 7, which includes teams about an hour away including Tooele, Stansbury, Cedar Valley in Eagle Mountain, Payson and more than three hours away with Uintah in Vernal. They also play nearby Cottonwood High, who they beat in last year’s region.
“Cottonwood—that game was our one and it was not an easy one. We had to fight tooth and nail for that game, and we worked so hard in practice the week before,” she said that it helped the team learn how to “really commit and prepare physically and mentally for tough games.”
Brough said that this region still is competitive for the Huskies.
“If we don’t bring our A game and do the best that we possibly can, then we’re not going to win games,” he said.
Pruden expects Stansbury and Cedar Valley both to be contenders for the region title based on preseason games.
“I think they’ll be good games for us—definitely be a challenge,” she said. “It’s just been really good to kind of get into a new region, kind of a new perspective to some new teams. It’s very refreshing. We were ready for a change. We’re really hoping to host and win a playoff game, which would be really big for us.”
The last time the Huskies hosted the first round of state was in 2018, when they lost to Northridge High. That also was the first year, the girls soccer team used East Midvale Elementary’s playground as their home field since the rebuild of Hillcrest High tore up their field. Pruden never has played at the Hillcrest campus except for senior nights on the football turf.
Pruden expects the team will benefit this season from this summer’s scrimmage play as well as from lifting weights not just running drills and conditioning as in past summers.
“Every year leading up to try out, we do trainings over the summer and usually that’s been mainly conditioning, but this year, we’ve shifted the focus to more technical and tactical side of the sport. Then, we amped up conditioning as tryouts got closer and I think that was helpful,” Pruden said.
Brough said the dedication came from offseason play as well.
“They were all really committed throughout the summer and came to the majority of what we did, and they all worked on their games in the last 10 months and became better players. They all raised their level of play and are really committed,” he said, adding that, “Some of these seniors, I don’t know that they’ll necessarily play, but they should have a chance if they want to be able to play somewhere maybe DII or DII; there’s lots of opportunities to play at the next level.”
Pruden hopes to continue playing soccer in college, maybe for a community college or division II team.
“I haven’t totally decided what I want to do after high school,” she said. “Just keeping my options open for now.”
Pruden began playing Sandy recreational soccer at age four, then transitioned to play both rec ball and a year of AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) before joining a club team. She grew up idolizing U.S. national team member and Olympian Alex Morgan, whom she was able to see play when Morgan’s Orlando Pride played the then Utah Royals.
“We play the same position and she’s one of the best,” Pruden said.