Prep girls soccer: Dedication to soccer pays off for Waterford

Prep girls soccer • There were 14 seniors on Waterford's state championship roster.
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Sandy • Per capita, Waterford's girls soccer team has the market cornered.

One out of every four high-school-aged girls at the private school plays soccer. And while sheer volume doesn't produce championships, the Ravens seem to be benefiting greatly by the sport's popularity on campus.

Waterford clinched its second consecutive Class 2A state title last week, again defeating St. Joseph at Rio Tinto Stadium. That gives the Ravens three titles in four years and five overall, the third most in the state since the sport's sanctioned competition began in 1989.

"Girls soccer is huge both in Utah County and Salt Lake County," coach Tim Dolbin said. "We get players at our small school that play soccer year-round and compete in the offseason at a high level.

"We encourage anyone who wants to play to play. We find a way to make the skills, whether they are new to the game or veteran players, work in the context of an 11-man lineup."

A total of 37 girls participated in this year's program, and more than one-third — 14 — were seniors, something Dolbin said was an anomaly.

"I'd never even had half that many [seniors] in a single year," Dolbin said. "When you take a small school like this and graduate five senior starters, it leaves a big hole for the next year."

Those five seniors contributed greatly to the team that went 12-5-1 and outlasted St. Joseph in a shootout. Senior Sydney Harrison's penalty kick ignited a celebration that most girls in the program won't soon forget.

"I'll remember the PKs and when Sydney scored and everyone came running out and tackling her," said junior goalkeeper Lauren Groathouse, who made two saves to turn the shootout into a lopsided 3-0 affair. "That was like the best feeling ever."

When the Ravens will attempt to become the third school to win three consecutive championships next year, they will do so with a roster that includes one senior — Groathouse — with real varsity experience.

While that might appear to be a weakness on the surface, it also could spell bad news for the rest of the classification. All those sophomores — three of the four top scorers in Caroline Coats (10 goals), Grace Sponaugle (nine) and Maddie Morrill (eight) – likely will be around for the next two years.

"We have a lot of good players who I know will step up next year," said Sponaugle, who scored three goals in the Ravens' final two games. "Everyone knows they will have a role, and they will play their game. I'm not too concerned."

Added Groathouse: "It's going to be hard, but I'm hoping we get some freshmen to come in. But we have a lot of sophomores and freshmen from this year who are amazing and can help us win next year."