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Alta soccer reloads with younger players

Thursday, April 25, 20131485 views

Losing nearly the entire starting line up to graduation can devastate some high school soccer programs. But the loss barely caused a blip on the screen at Alta High School.

The Hawks lost eight seniors from last year’s squad. However, the youth and inexperience of the new players aren’t showing on the scoreboard, as Alta is sitting on an 8-1 record midway through region play.

Alta has four seniors on the team, with three seeing time on the field at this stage of the game. The fourth, Avery Smith, broke his leg in the first meeting with Jordan High School. The other three are midfielders Michael Porter and Tanner Valerio, along with defender Conner Sheffield.

“They provide some great leadership for the younger players,” Alta coach Lee Mitchell said of the seniors.

Sheffield, a senior from Sandy, brings the most experience, being a starter on the team since he was a sophomore.

The reason for Alta’s year in, year out success in soccer might be traced to the community. Alta players only suit up as Hawks for three months of the year, but spend their early years and off season playing in competitive club leagues.

“We have some very good club programs in Sandy,” Mitchell said. “They help us continue to develop players who end up wearing Alta jerseys.”

While Sheffield anchors the defense, he is backed by a seasoned goalkeeper and two experienced defenders, all juniors at Alta. Dylan McIllece minds the net and Wid Covey and Brandon Tripp take care of the outside edge of the defense.

“They play off each other and give the opposition very little room to maneuver,” Mitchell said of the quartet.

While seniors Porter and Valerio take care of the midfield, they are joined by two junior middies in Erik Marquez and Christian Bain. Both have played minutes on the varsity team as sophomores and all four have tallied goals for the Hawks.

But the biggest scoring threat from Alta comes in the attack of junior strikers Marshall Miller and Alex Tempest. Miller has tallied eight goals for the Hawks while Tempest has added five.

“The underclassmen are stepping up and playing some tough ball for us,” Mitchell said. “They are keeping us competitive this year and building for next year.”

Alta’s only blemish came at the hands of annual rival Brighton, which took a 1-0 victory over the Hawks April 4. Alta will look to avenge the loss in its final match with Brighton April 30.

But Brighton isn’t the only worry for Mitchell. Although the Hawks have beaten Jordan twice this year – once in the regular season, 2-1, and again in the Real Cup championship, 3-2 – both games have been close and could go either way in the final meeting of the two schools April 23. Alta also isn’t overlooking West Jordan, Copper Hills or Cottonwood, the other members of Region 3.

“There are no easy games for us the rest of the schedule,” Mitchell said. “We have to respect all of our opponents or we could lose focus and a game or two.”

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