HYRUM — Sneaking up on the opposition was not an option for Mountain Crest’s girls soccer team this past fall.
After all, the Mustangs returned the lion’s share of their impact performers from their 2021 4A state championship squad. Indeed, everyone was gunning for Mountain Crest in 2022.
Nevertheless, that didn’t seem to faze the Mustangs one bit. In fact, it was something some of their players rather enjoyed.
“It was kind of cool because every game you would go in knowing that it would be a good game because everybody was just going to give it their all — both teams,” MC outside back Bentli Barrera said.
And while there’s no question opponents were extra motivated to beat the Mustangs during the 2022 campaign, it still proved to be a very tall order. Mountain Crest did lose three times this past fall — 3-2 to a 16-1 Bonneville squad, arguably the premier program in Utah’s 5A classification, and in penalty kick shootouts to 5A sides East and Woods Cross — but nobody from 4A managed to knock off the defending state champs. In fact, no 4A side was able to score against the Mustangs, although at least three goals were disallowed due to offside calls.
It was an incredibly rare achievement for Mountain Crest, which secured clean sheets against all 15 of its 4A foes and outscored the opposition by an astounding 48-0 margin in those matches. The Mustangs ended their memorable season by not conceding a goal during the final 1,097 minutes. Mountain Crest did not allow a goal during the final seven-plus weeks of the season.
“It’s (a) once-in-a-lifetime (accomplishment),” MC goalkeeper Hadley Glenn said. “It just feels awesome to have the chance to help my team out.”
It was a collective team effort for the two-time reigning 4A state champions, who had the luxury of returning their entire starting backline from a year ago. Barrera joined forces with older sister Rhauli, fellow sophomore Summer Sofonia and four-year starting center back Brittney Egbert to help the Mustangs shut out 27 opponents during a two-season stretch. The emergence of Glenn also loomed large in Mountain Crest’s successful quest for a second straight state crown.
Those five athletes came together to help accomplish something special and, quite frankly, unprecedented for a local high school soccer team. They have been selected as co-Herald Journal All-Valley Players of the Year. This is the first time The Herald Journal has honored a collective group of players for this annual award.
“It was a privilege to coach girls with such high soccer IQ and love for the game,” MC head coach Justin Beus said. “I mean, they never quit. It was 100 percent every practice, every game. Every opportunity they had to show up, they did.”
Beus had all the confidence in the world in his backline heading into the season, but the Mustangs needed to find a replacement for keeper Dakota Andersen. They certainly found Andersen’s replacement in Glenn, a sophomore who split time with Hailee Sharp during the first three-or-so weeks of the season.
The duo teamed up for early-season shutouts against Desert Hills and Crimson Cliffs before Glenn won the job for good in late August. No. 34 gave up a measly two goals during her time minding the net and announced her presence to the rest of Region 11 with a stunning performance against visiting Ridgeline on Sept. 8. Glenn came through with three memorable saves during a scoreless regulation and turned aside three of the Riverhawks’ four penalty kicks during the shootout. The Riverhawks were off the mark on their other attempt from the penalty spot, and the Mustangs prevailed in the shootout, 2-0.
“Man, she is competitive, she’s aggressive and she does not expect to lose,” Beus said of his first-team all-state keeper. “She’s so hard on herself. She doesn’t like to lose and it’s awesome. I love it.”
Playing a challenging preseason schedule helped give the Wellsville native the confidence she needed to excel in that pivotal win over a talented Ridgeline team.
“We felt that we had the hardest preseason (schedule) out of our region and we did fairly well with that, so we came in confident into region and we did pretty dang good,” said the tough-as-nails and spry Glenn, a former basketball player who is currently competing for MC’s girls wrestling program and is a standout rodeo athlete.
Beus is supremely confident the daughter of Dee and Kerry Glenn is a future Division I college player if that’s a goal of hers. All five of these aforementioned athletes are capable of playing at the next level, Beus asserted, and Egbert and Rhauli Barrera are both currently mulling over multiple offers to play in college next year.
Like Glenn, Egbert has taken up wrestling this season and is competing for the Mustangs. The daughter of Paul and Wendy Egbert is also a sprinter for Mountain Crest’s track & field team and is a former basketball player. The Wellsville native experienced some ups and downs during her four years as a starter — Mountain Crest finished fifth in the region when she was a freshman and fourth when she was sophomore — but was a big reason why the Hyrum-based school went 34-5 with 27 shutouts and six more matches with one goal allowed during her final two seasons.
“It feels really good just starting from the bottom and working our way up, and just thinking that all of our hard work has paid off,” Egbert said. “And just growing as a team (has been rewarding to see).”
Perhaps most importantly, No. 29 developed into a leader during Mountain Crest’s ascent to prominence in the 4A classification.
“I think for me, as a freshman starting I was just super shy and I wouldn’t talk too much and I wouldn’t communicate (very well) to our team,” Egbert said. “But now as a senior, I feel like I’ve grown closer to the team and I’ve spoken aloud and I’ve communicated better.”
Egbert’s steady, calm-under-pressure presence was certainly noticed by coaches in the 4A ranks as she garnered first-team all-state accolades as a senior and second-team all-state honors as a junior.
“That was really valuable,” Beus said of having a four-year starter. “Brittney was just a leader back there. She would keep the girls encouraged, she would always play hard. Even when things got hard, she played with a smile on her face and I liked that about her.”
Egbert developed a tight bond with fellow center back Rhauli Barrera and the two would perform somersaults in unison before the opening whistle of every match.
“We just did it to calm us down and just to have fun at the beginning of the season, and I think it really helped,” Egbert said.
It was an unforgettable final two seasons for Rhauli Barrera, who not only had outstanding synergy with Egbert, but had the rare opportunity of making a pair of state championship runs with her younger sisters. Hadli, a two-time first-team all-state midfielder, and Bentli are twin sisters.
“I think it’s pretty cool because I can kind of read them a little better than I can read the other players, so I think it’s kind of a perk in a way,” Rhauli said of sharing her final two seasons at MC with her sisters. “But I’ve really enjoyed it, so yeah, (it’s meant a lot).”
No. 20 was a key contributor as a junior as she garnered honorable mention all-state honors, and made significant strides as a senior on her way to earning first-team all-state distinction.
“The same thing with Rhauli (as with Glenn in) that she’s aggressive,” Beus said when asked about Rhauli’s greatest strengths. “She took pride in not getting beat and if somebody got past her — like that mistake she made against Logan — she gets back and she redeems herself. And her and Britney just worked so well together. They had great chemistry.”
That sequence Beus is referring to took place just seconds into the second half as Rhauli’s poor back pass was intercepted by Logan standout midfielder Emma Browning, who beat Glenn to the ball and had an open net in front of her. However, Rhauli hustled back in impressive fashion to block Browning’s shot just in the nick of time.
The daughter of Franco and Margo Barrera took a lot of pride in limiting the opposition’s dangerous scoring opportunities. The Mustangs, who ended the season with 13 straight shutouts, rarely put Glenn in a one-v-one situation this past season.
“Maybe a couple breakaways during preseason, but I feel like once region hit we kind of locked it down and did pretty well,” said Rhauli, a former varsity basketball player for the Mustangs.
In addition to Glenn, the Mustangs are very fortunate to have the services of outside backs Bentli Barrera and Sofonia for two more seasons. Both athletes are lockdown defenders that are also very dangerous in the attack in the run of play and on set pieces. Sofonia came through with four goals — two against 6A program Weber — and four assists in ’22, while Bentli contributed with five assists and all in different matches.
“I like to get involved in the attack and be defensive because I feel like playing defense can get kind of boring sometimes, so getting forward in the attack is something I look forward to,” Sofonia said.
Sofonia will forever be a legend at Mountain Crest after burying a sublime golden goal free kick in double overtime of last year’s state title showdown against Crimson Cliffs. The daughter of Todd and Jackie Sofonia is a threat every time she takes a free kick inside of scoring range, which is a wide range for her.
“Yeah, Summer’s got deadly free kicks,” Beus said of his two-time all-state left back (second team as a freshman, first team as a sophomore). “Summer is a phenomenal defender and also she’s a threat in the attack. She makes runs up the field all game long, so it’s hard (for opponents) to deal with Summer. And not only that, but she shuts people down.”
The Hyrum native is also well known for her ability to win 50-50 balls both in the air and on the ground. Sofonia will have the rare chance to chase a three-peat with her older sister, Addy, a stellar forward who garnered first-team all-state honors as a junior and second-team accolades as a sophomore.
“I like playing with her because, I don’t know, it’s just fun because it’s like sisterly bonding,” Summer said. “We know how each other plays. It’s been a lot fun playing with her.”
Like Sofonia, Bentli Barrera gives opponents fits with her speed, relentless ball-winning ability and technical ability. The Hyrum native has an incredibly strong throw-in for someone of her size — another weapon in her arsenal.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know if Bentli ever got beat this whole season,” Beus said of his right back. “If somebody got by her, she would recover and get the ball back. She’s a huge defensive threat, steps to the ball well and gets up the field and plays great offense as well. Her and Summer make awesome runs up the field.”
Like her aforementioned teammates, Bentli is a student of the game, is coachable and communicates well with her teammates. As a result, the Mustangs were a well-oiled machine defensively in ’22.
“Our talking helped, especially from the goalies and the center backs, just letting us know what to do and how to do it,” said Bentli, a two-time all-state selection. “I felt like that helped make us really successful.”
Hadli Barrera, So., MF, Mountain Crest
Barrera burst onto the high school scene as a freshman as she finished second on her team in both goals (13) and assists (eight).
No. 24 was even more productive as a sophomore as she ranked first among all Cache Valley players with 20 goals, plus dished out an impressive 11 assists. Barrera, a relentless ball winner, was a consistent performer, to boot, as she found the back of the net in 15 of the Mustangs’ 20 games, plus assisted on at least one goal in nine different matches.
“Hadli is a very good defensive player,” Beus said. “She gets backs and helps out on defense. Not only that, but she creates so many opportunities in the attack and she’s not a selfish player. I’ll bet she could have had twice as many goals, but she lays the ball off and she trusts her teammates. So, she’s a physical, tough player, trusts her teammates and creates lots of opportunities.”
The reigning Deseret News 4A MVP netted two goals in five different matches this past season, including against Region 10 champion Snow Canyon in the 4A title tilt. Barrera scored 36 seconds into the game and then buried another shot in stunning fashion later in the half to help propel Mountain Crest to a 3-0 victory.
“That second goal she scored was probably the best goal I think I’ve seen all year for sure,” said Beus of his sophomore speedster. “And when she puts it all together, she is a weapon … and I’m so glad she’s on our team.”
Reese Cragun, Jr., MF, Green Canyon
This skilled defensive midfielder played sparingly as a sophomore, but was one of her side’s top players a year later.
Green Canyon had one of the most potent midfields in the 4A classification in ’22 and Cragun was a big reason why. No. 8 played an instrumental role in Green Canyon’s late-season surge as the Wolves won five of their last seven games and outscored the opposition by a 29-7 margin during that stretch.
“Reese was a very important part of our team’s success this year,” GC head coach Kirt Sadler said. “She was phenomenal in one-v-one defending and she was great at winning the 50-50 balls. Playing the 6, she … dictated how her team played in a lot of games. She also went head to head with some of the top players in the region all season long. She is a very coachable player. She always did what I asked her to do and what I needed her to do in games. She’s an extremely competitive player and has an amazing work ethic on the pitch.”
Cragun was a good facilitator for the Wolves and also came through with goals against Bear River and Spanish Fork. Additionally, the junior assisted on fellow standout midfielder Austin Miller’s goal second goal against Crimson Cliffs.