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High school girls lacrosse: Park City earns redemption with its first 5A state championship

Park City was known all season for its dominating second-half performances.

The No. 2 Miners turned a close semifinal match into a rout just to get to the 5A state championship game. So when they had No. 1 Olympus tied up at the end of the first half, 5-5, the foreshadowing loomed large.

Twenty five minutes later, revenge was served.

Park City unleashed a critical scoring run to break a tie in the second half and turned the tide in its favor as the Miners beat the Titans, 12-8, to claim its first 5A state title, avenging last season’s one-goal loss to the Titans in the 2022 title match.

Olympus and Park City met during the regular season, and Olympus just barely escaped with a 14-13 win to remain undefeated. This time, however, the preparation and resiliency of the Miners won over as they weathered the initial storm of the Titans’ offense, initially trailing 2-0, and turned the tables in the second half.

“This is a game we’ve been looking forward to all season,” Park City coach Mikki Clayton said. “Olympus is a phenomenal team. … We knew it was going to be a battle, and it feels really good (to win).”

Against a team that had a penchant for racking up the points on its opponents, Park City’s defense was a spectacle in and of itself as it shut down Olympus for long portions of each half, including two stretches well over 10 minutes each.

Junior Sophie Neff wasn’t on Park City’s 2022 runner-up squad, one of only a few players that weren’t, but even when she hadn’t felt that sting of the previous defeat, she was the Miners’ deadliest player upfront and helped lift her team to a title.

Neff scored the equalizer in the last minute of the first half unassisted and finished the game with three goals and two assists. Senior Lilly Hunt and freshman Olivia Dalton also added three goals apiece for the Miners.

“I was feeling a little bit frustrated at the beginning,” Neff said. “I realized that forcing it wasn’t going to work, so I just had to work with my team. … Our motto this year was ‘effort and discipline,’ and it’s so clear that every member of this team was putting that in.”

After Neff’s goal tied up the game with 57 seconds left in the first half, Clayton entered the locker room with her players wishing they had a little more room for error but knowing it was essentially a 0-0 game, and the Miners were about to tap into their second-half mode.

“We only had that second half to play,” Clayton said. “We knew we had some momentum and the girls were really fired up.”

“Fired up” might have been an understatement, but there were few words to describe the run Park City had in store.

After roughly nine minutes of show-stopping defense on both ends, Park City broke the Olympus defense in a way perhaps no other team has all season, as it reeled off a run of five goals over seven minutes of play to take a commanding 10-5 lead with 9:33 to go.

“They really just played so well in that second half,” Clayton said.

Olympus senior Eva Thorn and sophomore Elizabeth Anné led the Titans with two goals apiece.

This title may be the first 5A title for Park City, but it’s the second for the school in the three years since lacrosse began in Utah. Park City won the Division A championship in the inaugural season.

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