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Juan Diego girls soccer bounced early in state tournament

Nov 03, 2017 09:57AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Coming off a state championship, the Juan Diego girls soccer team broke in a new coach and qualified for the state tournament for the 15th straight season.

By Josh McFadden | josh@mycityjournals.com

Postseason play is nothing new to the Juan Diego girls soccer team, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the team qualified for the Class 4A state tournament this year. But the team’s quick exit was a rarity. 

The Soaring Eagle fell to Snow Canyon 1-0 in the first round of the playoff on Oct. 11. A year after capturing the Class 3A crown, Juan Diego failed to make it past the opening round for the first time since 2003. That year marked the beginning of a current streak of 15 consecutive playoff appearances. 

“It is never easy to win back-to-back championships,” said first-year head coach Goran Golemba. “As a team, we had a slow start, but ended our season very strong. Even though we lost our first-round playoff game, the team has played great, and I could not be prouder of the effort and team support on the pitch. The team played together with tremendous heart until the final whistle. It was a pleasure watching them come together as one.”

The Soaring Eagle placed fourth in Region 11, finishing with a 5-6-1 league record. By grabbing the final playoff berth in the region, Juan Diego drew Region 9 champion Snow Canyon. Juan Diego played Snow Canyon tough; the game was scoreless at halftime. The Warriors broke through with a second-half goal and kept Juan Diego at bay, holding on for the close victory.

“Going into this game as the underdog, we knew it would be a tough game,” Golemba said. “We knew that Snow Canyon is a good team and that they would be tough to compete against. For this game, we had to be mentally prepared the most. Just the week before we had lost our goalkeeper, which had made the situation even more difficult. I would be lying if I said that this did not trouble us when thinking of the final result. However, the team came out more aggressive than ever. I truly believe that in this game, the team had displayed great effort and heart, from the beginning to the end, and never showed any signs of giving up.”

Even though the loss prevented Juan Diego from reaching the quarterfinals for the 14th straight season, Golemba was pleased with the way his team competed, especially considering the loss of his goalkeeper.

“With the loss at the end, no goalie and only one goal against, this had to be one of our better performances,” he said. “Every loss is a heartbreak, but with a performance like the team has shown during our first and last playoff game, I could not be prouder as a coach of a fantastic team.”

The Soaring Eagle started the year with four straight losses and eight defeats in the first nine games. However, the team regrouped and put together a solid run in region play. Juan Diego went 5-11-1 overall. 

Golemba was impressed this season with his team leaders for their skill as well as their examples to the other players. 

“Players such as Avery Fries, Heaven Kelley and Laveni Vaka are perfect examples of what leaders should be like on the soccer field,” he said. “They have portrayed excellent leadership to the team and never gave up throughout the season, both as individual players and as teammates. Adding to their leadership and great performance are players Bella Moyer, Daviana Vaka (who led the team in scoring), Elizabeth Blair and Abbey Kolff.”

The Soaring Eagle played a challenging non-region schedule this season. Golemba expects to do the same next season to get the team ready for the rigors of league play.   

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