Soccer makes playoffs, advances after winning physical first-round match

Freshman KayCee Russell outpaces two Wildcats in the Red Devils’ first-round playoff victory in soccer against the South Summit Wildcats. Photo by Anthony Militano

The Grand County girls soccer team beat the South Summit Wildcats 2-0 in the first round of playoffs on Saturday, Oct. 12, in Moab. “This is about the first time in three years these ladies have made it past the first round of playoffs,” coach Austin Marques said in an interview after the game.

“It’s a first for a lot of these ladies, so just the support that we’ve had all season has been great. I want to thank the entire community of Moab from the bottom of my heart; thank you for being behind these ladies.”

The first half was scoreless. Grand had few opportunities, but the Red Devils could not put points on the board. Emree Olsen had a shot-on-goal penalty kick and she missed. Olsen noticeably fumed over her error, but she moved on and had a productive, defense-centric game.

Corah Moody scored Grand’s first goal at about the 32:30 mark in the second half. Neelie Relph put it in the back of the net 10 minutes later to give Grand the 2-0 lead.

The game was physical. The loser is done and winner moves on. Marques was very vocal shouting instructions to his players to “watch for arms.” Marques loudly protested to the officials that the Wildcats were guilty of too much physical contact. An official at the end of the first half admonished Marques not to criticize the refs.

Both teams bump and tripped each other. Both teams were duly punished with penalty kicks.

Freshman Maggie Groene uses her body to block the ball. Captain and mentor Neelie Relph is in front of her. Photo by Anthony Militano

Relph was thrown to the ground twice during the game. In one of the incidents, she hurt her tailbone and was slow to get up. Still doubled over, she lifted herself off the ground. “Are you okay?” a referee asked. Relph straightened herself out, dusted off her tailbone and breathlessly said “yep.”

Her toughness was not lost on her coach. “My captains are Emery Olsen, Corah Moody, and Neelie Relph,” Marques said. “Neelie has been my captain… whether we lose really bad, she’s the one to pick these girls back up. Whether she gets fouled, she’s the one that shows these ladies we stand back up and keep on fighting. That’s why she wears that band around her arm and that’s why she represents this team as well as she does. She’s a mean motor scooter.”

Moody earned some long overdue praise for her performance and her leadership skills in the first round playoff. Freshmen Cora Baird and KayCee Russell had a tremendous game under Moody’s tutelage.

Akira Scovill and Tava Walling displayed some fancy footwork in the game. Priscila Gallegos and Gracie Martinez were not afraid to directly confront opponents and strip the ball.

“Our next opponent is number-2 seeded Judge Memorial. They’ve won state a couple of times already. These girls are going to do their best to fight throughout the game, but I think we are more excited to play a team that plays good soccer, that plays safe soccer, and it will be a great moment for these ladies to witness other women playing the sport in very amazing ways,” said Marquez.