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Skyline girls get first win over Hillcrest in two years

For the first time in two years, the Skyline-Hillcrest girls soccer rivalry is back to the side of the blue.

The Grizzlies downed the Knights 4-1 behind three second half goals on Saturday in muggy conditions at McCowin Park, getting their first win over Hillcrest since the 2015 regular season.

There have been some significant changes since the 2015 season, most notably in classifications.

With Skyline’s move from 5A to 4A last season, the games with Hillcrest no longer count toward conference records and they only face each other once a year. The intensity that has long been associated between the Grizzlies and Knights, however, has not died down.

The two-year skid to the Knights was on the mind of Skyline senior Nachelle Horne, who said she understood Saturday was the final opportunity to face them in her high school career.

“For our last year as seniors, we had to show them what we had this year,” said Horne, who had one goal and two assists in Saturday’s win. “We’re familiar with each other’s style of play. We’re friendly, but competitive. At the end of the game, only one will be a winner. This time, it was us.”

The familiarity extends beyond the high school season. Several Knights and Grizzlies know each other from club soccer, evident by how all the captains addressed each other on a first-name basis before Saturday’s game. Amidst the respect and familiarity there is a strong desire to win, and Saturday was no different.

“That’s what I love about playing Hillcrest,” Skyline coach Kip Archibald said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie, but there’s also a lot of competition. It’s a really fun game.”

It didn’t take long for Saturday’s battle to get competitive.

Hillcrest struck first, as Natalia Cruces followed up on a deflected shot to send the ball into the bottom left corner of the net in the eighth minute. A goal keeper’s battle ensued for much of the remainder of the half, and it took a long range shot from Horne that soared past Hillcrest keeper Amy Olson’s gloves and into the top right corner to break it up.

The 1-1 deadlock carried into halftime, then the floodgates opened for the Grizzlies upon returning to the field. Horne assisted Skyline sophomore Haley Mickelsen on a 42nd minute goal, and Mickelsen became swarmed by a sea of sky blue jerseys before hurrying back on defense.

“She’s amazing,” Horne said. “She’s so quick.”

Horne assisted Katie Nawrocki to give the Grizzlies an insurance goal in the 54th minute, by which time both coaches were making substitutions every five to 10 minutes to provide water breaks amidst the humidity. Skyline wrapped up the scoring in the 73rd minute with a goal from Ashley Orchard, who extended her arms and ran around like an airplane in celebration.

Upon hearing the full time whistles, a collective cheer rose from the Grizzlies.

Saturday provided an introduction to Skyline-Hillcrest girls soccer for first-year Hillcrest coach Danielle Francis, whose players filled her in on the rivalry. It also came during a particularly busy stretch for both teams. Saturday was Skyline’s second of three games in six days and the third of four games in six days for Hillcrest, which defeated Jerome 4-1 less than 24 hours earlier.

Francis said holding the lead has been a struggle for the Knights recently.

“We have a tendency to go up early but we need to work on maintaining that lead, to play strong for all 80 minutes,” Francis said.

Final score aside, there was an eye-catching number on Francis’s stat sheet after the game: Olson’s 19 saves.

“That was one of her best performances of the season,” Francis said. “She has been continually improving her game.”

Hillcrest (3-5-1) plays Bonneville in the first Civil Cup of 2017 on Monday at Thunder Stadium while Skyline (4-1-1) plays Monday at Preston.

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