West Valley City • The Copper Hills boys' soccer team battled youth and inexperience all season.
It's hard to tell now.
The Grizzlies are back in the Class 5A state semifinals for the second consecutive year. A 2-0 victory over Hunter cemented the process. As a result, the Grizzlies will advance to the final four at Woods Cross High, where they will face Bingham.
"It hasn't always been easy for us this year," Copper Hills coach Eddie Moura said. "We've had to deal with a lot. But this team has stuck together. They've been a family all season, and they've been resilient. We made the plays that we had to in order to win this game."
In truth, many could have seen the Grizzlies' playoff run coming. They've won five of their last six game. The lone loss came against Brighton, the overwhelming favorite to win the state title.
In what has been a trend, Friday's win comes on the strength of dominant goaltending. Senior keeper Keaton Gallegos turned back stiff repeated challenges from the Wolverines offense, making diving saves and directing traffic with aplomb in the back.
That was a good thing because Hunter owned the midfield in the first half and for a good portion of the second half. Copper Hills looked frustrated by its lack of success at the point of attack for a while
Things changed abruptly. Connor Thompson, one of three seniors, scored his 20th goal of the season by knocking home a rebound in the 28th minute of the second half. Swift freshman forward Fahat Yogul made a fantastic run up the left sideline and scored the insurance goal minutes later.
The Grizzlies have outscored opponents 3-0 in their two playoff games by relying on a stout defense and Gallegos' goaltending.
"We were getting pummeled for a good part of the game," Gallegos said. "But we stayed with it. We were able to change the momentum, and we came up big when we had to."
At Woods Cross High School
• Bingham vs. Copper Hills, 11:30 a.m.
• Lehi vs. Brighton, 1:45 p.m.