Mustangs make good from long range after Wildcats stymie short shots


It figures. Sunrise Mountain's girls soccer teams had two golden scoring opportunities  late in the first half, only to see two Willow Canyon players block them with their legs.

So in the 48th minute,  Mustangs sophomore Riley Swier broke the 1-1 deadlock in the Jan. 7 5A game by scoring on a breakaway - from distance.

Swier had been stopped by a Wildcats defender on a point-blank rebound in the first half. But eght minutes into the second she made sure, lofting a powerful shot over the head of the keeper and into the corner of the net before the keeper could cut down the angle.

"The big thing for us is that confidence and being able to do it. She's already had to battle through injuries already this year. So she's missed time come back and doesn't have that confidence yet. So that goal was big for her," Sunrise Mountain coach Erik Andersen said.

Sunrise Mountain (6-3-1 overall, 3-2 regular season) maintained the 2-1 lead for the final 30 minutes against the team that knocked it out of the 5A play-in game last season.

Willow Canyon (3-5, 1-1)  had a couple of opportunities from freshman forward Grace Brown. But for the most part, the home team shut them down.

"It was awesome. We've had to deal with a lot of injuries and sicknesses. We're missing one of our starting center backs tonight. That's Kaitlyn Watkins and she's out sick. Alexis Yanke stepped in and played center back. She's normally plays outside back," Andersen said.

The visitors seized the lead early in the first game after winter break. Senior midfielder  Megan Tracey scored the opening goal for the Wildcats.

In coach Kendra Melbye's opinion, the team stopped peppering the net after the early surge.

"We were looking for shots from distance early. But after that we struggled. We had a couple good opportunities we couldn't finish it," Melbye said.

Senior Sierra Colby tied the contest for the Mustangs, scoring in her first game back after a bout with mononucleosis.

Willow Canyon is also at less than full strength and already young in its defense. Freshman defender Katelyn Nylen is hurt.

"We lost some key players in the back. It's taken a while for this team to gel," Melbye said.

The Mustangs play at Liberty Thursday, then have a 12-day break before their next game.

Willow Canyon will not have that luxury until the regular season ends Feb. 11.

This was only the Wildcats' second regular season game. Eleven of their 12 contests that will count in the power points take place after winter break.

That has slowed the development of a young team but Melbye likes where the squad is going.

"Sometimes it's one too many touches that someone wants to take. But we're moving in the right direction," Melbye said.

The Mustangs lost to top 5A teams Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep and Queen Creek Casteel in the early season, both times by a goal.

That was without veteran players like Colby and junior striker Justyne Underwood. Andersen said this team can do big things at full strength.

"This year's team has the most potential. The senior class has been with me since I started the program," Andersen said.