PROVO, Utah – The Maple Mountain boys soccer team hadn’t forgotten how Salem Hills came to their field and handed them a disheartening 3-1 defeat on March 16.
Thursday afternoon, the Golden Eagles turned the tables and returned the favor.
The determined Maple Mountain players performed at a high level on both ends of the field, seizing control early and never letting the Skyhawks rally as the Golden Eagles secured the 4-1 victory.
“This was a big game for us,” Maple Mountain head coach Lawrence Cullum said. “They were in front of us (in the standings) and they did beat us at our place in the first game of the season. That was a tough one to take, so we came out here ready to play. Winning is a great way to start the second half of our region play. We’re hoping we can keep that motivation going.”
It was impossible to ignore the contributions of senior Seth Krommenhoek, who was all over the field and made key plays on offense and defense.
“Seth is truly a center back,” Cullum said. “We moved him up to a forward position just because he gives us that stability up there. He allows us to set our pressure up top. It’s a new position for him but he’s excelling at it because he knows how to play. He’s figuring out that position so as the next few games come up, he’s going to be stronger and stronger. He definitely is getting everybody on his team involved.”
Krommenhoek said he felt like the Golden Eagles put together the type of game they are capable of playing.
“We’ve been working really hard at practice lately and bonding as a team,” Krommenhoek said. “It really came out on the field today. We were running for each other, moving off the ball, and we were not afraid to push them around. I think that physicality gave us the edge today.”
He started things off by getting free behind the Salem Hills defense and finishing a one-on-one opportunity just five minutes into the game.
“That was huge, right scoring right from the start,” Krommenhoek said. “It’s such a momentum shift. I’ve been on the other side of it and it is so degrading on a team when you can score early. Being able to do that, to prove ourselves that we were in this game, that was really good for our team.”
Although Maple Mountain created a number of shots, that was all the points the visitors could muster in the first half. The Golden Eagle defense, however, did a great job limiting the Salem Hills attack and forcing the Skyhawks to take a lot of long shots that weren’t on frame.
In the second half, though, Maple Mountain broke the game wide open.
Krommenhoek alertly fired a long throw-in on a counterattack opportunity and the ball rolled to where junior midfielder Benny West was charging in. He hit the back of the net to double the Golden Eagle advantage.
Krommenhoek then got fouled in the penalty box and senior midfielder Addison Allen made the penalty kick. That was followed by a great pass from West to Krommenhoek for the fourth and final Maple Mountain goal.
Salem Hills got on the board when senior Brayden Thurgood weaved through multiple Golden Eagle defenders and got the ball across the line, but that was all the Skyhawks could manage.
The home team took advantage and created a number of opportunities during a stretch when Maple Mountain got focused on officiating decisions they didn’t agree. Krommenhoek said the Golden Eagles finally realized how much the distraction was dragging them down.
“It’s really hard when you start disagreeing with refs,” Krommenhoek said. “I still struggle with it but I’ve noticed that when you start getting mad at a ref, it gets worse. I just hit a point where I caught myself getting mad at the ref too much. We just came together as a team and decided we weren’t going to talk to the ref anymore. I think that helped us get in the right mindset.”
Cullum said he feels like his squad has bounced back from some early injuries and now is showing just how good it can be.
“We’ve been growing and growing and getting stronger and stronger,” Cullum said. “You get a performance like this and this is what we want. We want to ascend so when state comes around, we’re ready. I said to the team that if they keep giving us effort like this, I don’t care who’s on the other side of the field. It’s going to be a game, and we’re going to we’re going to be able to give as good as we get.”
Maple Mountain (6-3, 5-3) will look to keep rolling when it plays at Springville at 4 p.m. Tuesday while Salem Hils (5-5, 5-3) next plays at Provo on the same day at 7 p.m.