Twice a bridesmaid, the Morgan Trojans are finally the bride, capturing MHS’s first-ever state girls’ soccer championship last Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium with a very impressive 4-1 win over rival Judge Memorial. The Trojans had been to the title game in 2002 and 2009, but came up short both times.
Morgan striker Logan Duran had an extraordinary game, scoring three goals to lead the Trojans to victory. Duran also scored the lone goal in the Trojans’ 1-0 victory over Manti in the semifinal round on Friday.
But a hat trick in the championship game? And did we mention that she played the whole weekend with a dislocated shoulder? That’s stuff of legend.
“Just knowing what was on the line, and that I represent every person here, my school, my community, I had so much on my shoulders, so I thought I better make them proud,” said an emotional Duran, who was swarmed by more than half a dozen reporters after the game. “To be a part of it, to be my senior year, we’ve worked so hard for this.”
Duran finished the year with 26 goals, by far the most on the team.
“What can I say about Logan?” Morgan coach Bryan Searle said. “Why the Division I schools aren’t picking her up is beyond me. She’s just incredible. She’s played that way for many years for me. She’s a superb athlete, is focused mentally, and has become a true team player.”
Junior forward Rhylee Freeman scored the Trojans’ first goal less than three minutes into the game, heading in a beautiful corner kick by senior Morgan Cragun.
The quick strike was something the Trojans had been doing regularly during its 14-game winning streak to end the season. An early goal in the championship match was crucial to help calm some of the nerves the team may have been feeling.
Equally important to the Trojans’ success was its suffocating defense. Morgan allowed only two goals in its final seven games. The defense was especially important against the hard charging Bulldogs, who kept the pressure on the Trojans all game long.
Backs Talli Gardner and Karlie Kotter rarely let the ball get past them. They were supported by midfielders Heather Moore, Sydney McGreer, Tannah Carter, Alexia Stanbridge and Kaylee Giles. When you throw in the Cragun sisters, Morgan and Sydney, as well as the Trojans’ second team players, virtually everyone had a hand in keeping the Bulldogs out of the net.
“Our defense has been doing really well lately,” Morgan goalkeeper Taylor Condie said. “I’m proud of them.”
Speaking of Condie, the sophomore was clearly a bit nervous to start the game. Shortly after Freeman’s opening goal, the Bulldogs raced downfield and kicked a slow roller right to Condie. To her horror – and everyone else’s too – the ball grazed her fingertips and rolled right between her legs. Ninety-nine times out of 100, Condie is stopping that ball. But this one, as if in slow motion, dribbled right toward the far post. Luckily, it narrowly missed going in. From the expression on her face, it was clear she wanted to crawl into a hole.
“I might have swore,” Condie said. “I think nerves kind of got to me a little bit at the first.”
“We told her at halftime to just settle down and stay composed,” Searle said. “And she did. Towards the end of the game she had a shot that she pushed up and over the goal, I’m super proud of her. She’s come a long ways.”
Another thing that made Morgan’s championship so impressive was that it came against Region 13 rival Judge Memorial, which the Trojans had already beaten twice during the regular season. To earn three victories against the same team is very difficult to do.
“It’s tough,” Searle said. “We told the girls before the game that (Judge) had three reasons to win: we beat them the first time, beat them the second time, and they wanted the (championship) trophy. So we knew we had to come out and play harder than we’ve played before. I’m super proud of the girls.”
At the end, the best team in 3A was left standing. No other team had the combination of offense, defense, depth and coaching. And the Trojans relished the victory.
“I haven’t fully registered it yet,” Duran said. “I’m still shaking like crazy. We’re the first (girls’ soccer team) to have our name on a banner. Our names will be in the school as long as the school is still there.”
“It’s like a dream come true,” Morgan Cragun said. “It’s everything I’ve worked for for four years, if not my whole life. It just feels amazing.”
“It’s just the most amazing feeling in the whole world,” said Freeman, who got to celebrate on the field with her dad, Bryan Freeman, who serves as a volunteer assistant coach for the Trojans. “Judge played an amazing game, but that was the best game we’ve ever played against them.”
Moore, who nearly didn’t play soccer this season, was glad she came back for this experience.
“Probably it’s the best decision I ever made,” she said. “I feel grateful for the opportunity to even play at Rio Tinto against Judge, who is an awesome team. They had us on our toes the whole time.
“I think this is pretty exciting,” Moore added. “It obviously hasn’t happened before at Morgan, so this is a big deal for us and for the school.”
“It’s incredible,” Searle concluded. “To go undefeated in region and then get through state play and win is a great accomplishment for any team. It’s certainly going to be one we’ll remember and focus on at our school. It’s great for the kids. I wasn’t nervous today, I was scared. I was scared that we wouldn’t win after they’ve worked so hard. But we played as a team. Every practice, every game they played for each other. When you have a team like that, it’s unstoppable.”