Prep Soccer: AF blanks Northridge to advance to 6A semifinals

October 12, 2017

The American Fork girls soccer team plays its best in the spotlight, and the Cavemen are headed to the semifinals once again.

Two gorgeous first half goals by junior Jamie Shepherd and freshman Addison Gardner propelled American Fork to a 2-0 victory against Northridge on Tuesday in the Class 6A girls soccer quarterfinals.

“That’s what the playoffs bring out in some of these kids,” American Fork coach Derek Dunn said. “It really brings out the want and the will to win.”

Shepherd’s goal came just three minutes into the game and was set up by excellent teamwork.

“We got a counter and it was an awesome buildup,” Shepherd said. “Becky Olsen took the ball down the line and found Addie Holmstead. She was in the box and was really patient. She found a drop to me and set me up perfectly. I had a wide open look and an easy tap in.”

That early goal gave the Cavemen confidence and they controlled the ball the rest of the half, which led to the second goal in the 22nd minute. Rachel McCarthy blasted a cross into the box from 25 yards and Gardner, who just checked into the game moments earlier, rose impossibly high into the air to head the ball in past a stunned Northridge keeper for a 2-0 lead.

“Maybe the U.S. National Team should take some notes,” Dunn said with a laugh. “It was beautiful goal. She got up there. That’s a freshman, and to go in there and do that, it was amazing.”

American Fork played well defensively, marking high-scoring Northridge forward Kendell Peterson and withstanding several dangerous corner kicks to make that 2-0 lead hold up.

The Cavemen have been knocking on the door of a championship for three seasons.

“I’m sick of being the early bird out against great teams,” Dunn said. “My first year here we lost to Davis on a golden goal in overtime (5A quarterfinals) and last year we lost to Fremont (semifinals), who went on to lose to Davis 2-1 in the final. I want to be that great team. These girls want to be that great team. They’re ready.”

American Fork, which lost 11 players to graduation from last year’s semifinal team, has relied on a strong group of juniors and seniors along with a talented freshman class this season.

“Everyone kept saying, ‘Coach, it’s a rebuilding year,’” Dunn said. “There’s no such thing. If you go in thinking that, you’re in trouble. What I told the kids was to take one step at a time, one game at time.

“Our senior class and our juniors, they are really holding their own. They’ve been putting their arms around these young kids and I couldn’t ask for a better group of upperclassmen.”

The Cavemen (17-1-0) will play Layton, a 1-0 overtime winner against Lone Peak, in one of the semifinals next Tuesday at Juan Diego High School.

Going home early isn’t going to be an acceptable outcome.

“No more,” Shepherd said. “Hopefully we can get a step further and be able to finish out the year strong.”

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