BOUNTIFUL -- Bountiful's Molli Merrill hasn't been in goal for the Braves forever, it only feels that way for her Region 5 opponents. Still only a junior, the three-year starter has shut out more people than border patrol. She was never better than during a four-game stretch in the state tournament where the Braves only surrendered one goal on their way to the 4-A championship.
For that, Merrill is the Clipper girls soccer MVP.
When asked which player they would like to build a team around, many local coaches and players said Merrill, because of her ability to shut down opposing offenses and to organize the defense.
"It's reassuring having Molli back there," said Bountiful coach Dave Wigham.
While Merrill has been at Bountiful, Wigham has often been heard saying that if the Braves score twice it's over. That's because he knows that there is no way the talented defense, led by Merrill, would slip up twice.
That was the case in the state final against Sky View. Bountiful scored twice in the first 17 minutes, and it was then up to Merrill and the defense to snuff out any Bobcat attempts to get back in the game.
Sky View, like many other opponents, tried to aggressively take out Merrill with collisions in the goal box. She was staggered, but unfazed after being hit multiple times in the championship game.
Wigham says that what makes Merrill special is her ability to anticipate and take away angles from the offense. She knows where she is supposed to be at all times, and has the athletic ability to stop goals that other keepers would watch fly by.
The county is loaded with quality players who all received votes for MVP. Bountiful's Ari Wood's versatility was key for the Braves, Viewmont's Erin Dalley was even better than last year, Woods Cross' Kassidy Christensen put the 'Cats on her back, and Northridge's Nikisha Fernandes is one of the state's best offensive weapons.