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Statewide Girls Soccer Preview
Teams across Idaho look to dethrone CDA Charter in what should be a thrilling 2020 season
Published: 9/2/2020 5:26:04 PM
 


CLASS 5A

The defending 5A state champs made a splash in 2019, thanks to the heroic goalkeeping of Kasey Wardle. 

In a fierce back-and-forth state title battle, the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies and conference rival Boise Brave resorted to penalty kicks after a scoreless regulation. And with her back against the goal line, Wardle secured the hardware for Rocky, keeping the Brave’s final shot out of the net. 

In 2020, Wardle, along with a handful of Grizzly stars, will return to finish off their high school career with a bang. Wardle, an all-state selection last year, committed to the Utah Utes, while 2019’s Gatorade Player of the Year Kelsey Oyler has committed to the Gonzaga Bulldogs. 

Oyler finished last season as the leading scorer in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference, helping the Grizzlies average nearly five goals per game. The senior midfielder, coupled with Wardle’s knack for tracking down shots, should help propel the Grizzlies’ chances at securing a third-straight state title. 

While the SIC, and the entire state playoff landscape for that matter, look to be Rocky Mountain’s to win, plenty of Treasure Valley, North Idaho and East Idaho teams look eager to dethrone the defending champs.

In the SIC, Timberline finished second, with the Grizzlies handing the Wolves their only conference loss on the year. Timberline also lost to Rocky Mountain in the playoffs, resulting in a third-place finish on the year. 

Timberline Coach Ross Schultz said the Wolves return plenty of key players in last year’s 14-3-3 team, including striker Hayden Wisley and senior Lilly Anson. 

On the backend, Schultz said he lost two starting goalkeepers, a critical hit to a team that “defended like no other.” The Wolves led the SIC in defense, allowing just 0.45 goals per match in 2019. 

On offense, Wisely, Anson and senior midfielder Brooke Christie will hope to pull their weight and then some, as Schultz said his 2019 squad did not attack opposing back lines as aggressively as he would have liked. 

“We didn't score enough,” he said. “We have added more attacking players to the team and look to score more goals.”

In order to win 2019’s third-place trophy, Timberline had to overcome a defiant Mountain View team. Coach Alyssa Wolf said last year's 14-8-2 Mavericks return a mix of young and experienced talent to the pitch, including senior forward Brooke Snyder and junior forward Avery McBride. 

“We lost a little steam at state, injuries were a bit of an issue and we did not have a ton of depth in back line or midfield,” Wolf said. “We were missing a bit of technicality that we now have with new and returning players, we now have depth in the midfield and forward positions.”

Wolf will rely on a young squad, including sophomore forward Sophia Avalos to help fill out the offense. As a freshman, Avalos was one of the Maverick’s leading scorers on a team that averaged 2.3 goals per game. 

In terms of leadership, Wolf said she lost key seniors in Emily Morandi and Olivia Vance — Avalos’ right-hand-woman. But in senior midfielder Kaydree Rapp, Wolf said she sees a rising star that can help unify the Mountain View locker room. 

“She’s one of the best playmakers in the league, very calm on the ball, dictates the pace of a game, great vision, dangerous on set pieces,” he said. 

Up north, Lake City and Coeur d’Alene led the 5A Inland Empire, finishing first and second, respectively. But the Timberwolves stumbled in the state playoffs, falling Mountain View 1-0 and then to Eagle in the consolation bracket 2-1 in overtime. The Vikings, meanwhile, fared better than their conference cousin, winning the state consolation bracket in a thrilling 0-0, 7-6 PK match against Eagle.

Out of District 5-6, Madison looks to once again finish as a conference favorite after finishing 6-0 in league play. The Bobcats saw their season come to an end at the hands of Coeur d’Alene in consolation play 2-1. But a storm could be brewing in East Idaho, as the Thunder Ridge Titans look to shock the conference. 

“We've made steady improvement since the fall of 2018. Our total numbers for the program have increased to 36 players, up from 28 last year and even fewer than that of the inaugural season,” said Coach Jason Lance. “We're looking forward to continuing that improvement with a good mix of both seasoned and young players on our varsity roster.”

The third-year program missed the state playoffs after finishing 1-4 in the conference. The Titans lost in the first round of their district tournament to Highland 3-1. Despite the early exit, Lance said he’s confident his team can challenge Madison for the crown. 

Senior Victoria Aguinaga will help lock down the backline, serving as one of the many seasoned veterans Lance has at his disposal. 

“Her experience and ability to read the field will be crucial for our otherwise young back line,” he said. “Tori is also a very versatile player that can be moved up to the midfield when called for and has the ability to make dangerous runs out of the back.”

Alongside Aguinaga, Junior sophi Mangum and sophomore Olivia Christensen will hope to improve the Titans’ 1.88 point per game average from 2019. Freshman Savannah Kenney, meanwhile, will use her fast-paced style at the midfield position. 

“She's earning great minutes as a midfielder and forward on the varsity squad, and she already buried the first goal of her high school career in the second game of the season,” Lance said. “We're excited to see this young lady develop over time.”

The young Titan program has been on an upward trajectory for the last two years, as Thunder Ridge debuted its girls soccer team with a 3-10 overall record, improving to 5-10 last year. Lance said confidence remains a work in progress, as his Titans look to rid themselves of any memories from those losing seasons. 

“While strides have been made over the past couple of seasons there still seems to be flashbacks to the struggles we experienced that first year,” he said. “The bulk of those first year players are now seniors in the program, and they need to understand and believe that we are a talented team that can compete with the best in our area.”

A new face joins the 5A ranks in 2020, with the Kuna Kavemen bumping up to the state’s top classification after a second-place 4A finish last year. 

Senior Lexy Haws returns to help the Kavemen find similar success in 5A. Haws did just about everything for Kuna her junior year, playing on both offense and defense and reaching incredible heights at both positions. Haws scored 31 goals in 2019, coupled with 17 assists, earning her the 4A Player of the Year honor. 

Just behind Haws, senior Jayla Ponce also plans to play both ways after finishing last year with 31 goals and 16 assists. The pair highlight the incredible depth Kuna showcased in 2019, an advantage Coach Chris Reynolds said won’t be as prevalent as the level of competition drastically increases at the 5A level. 

“We were able to possess and play at a pace that was hard for opponents to match. We are not quite as deep this year but we hope to be able to continue possessing and controlling the flow of games,” Reynolds said. “There are no easy games in the 5A SIC.”


CLASS 4A

The Bulldogs had to overcome just two other teams to reach the 4A state playoffs, but the north’s top girls soccer program still ended the regular season in commanding fashion. 

Sandpoint cruised to a 12-3 finish on the year, averaging 4 points per match, allowing just 0.76 en route to a state championship. 

“We try to play the best soccer that our team is capable of playing, and we try to get there by the end of the season,” said Coach Conor Baranski. “We try to play tough, fast, fluid soccer and it usually takes the better part of a season to get there.”

Hattie Larson, one of the state’s top goalkeepers, returns for her senior season. With Larson’s help, Sandpoint ended the year as the state’s second-stingiest defense. Sophomore defender Kelsey Cessna also returns to the backline. 

On offense, senior forward Jordie Beeden brings a tenacious, aggressive mentality to the frontline. Her energy will be needed more than ever, as Baranski lost senior leadership in Emi Lynch, Kiley Webster and Hannah Eddy. 

The Bulldogs’ challenger for the 4A throne — Kuna — no longer competes in 4A competition, leaving the door wide open for Bishop Kelly. 

The Knights topped last year’s SIC standings, finishing undefeated in conference play and securing the district title with a 1-0 win over Kuna. But in the state playoffs, a meeting with Sandpoint foiled Bishop Kelly’s progress toward the state title.

Nevertheless, Bishop Kelly persisted to a third-place finish, defeating Skyline 3-0.

But the Knights will have plenty of competition in the ever-difficult SIC. Middleton will look to once again reach the postseason after winning last year’s consolation tournament, while teams like Vallivue, Caldwell and Ridgevue will look to make it over the hump in 2020. 

“We grew up fast last year. The girls were so young but never played intimidated,” said Ridgevue Coach Randy Fone. “They know the game well and the experience they gained by playing last year will be better served this year. Look for this team to continue to grow and play with more confidence.” 

Sophomore Katie Barton returns after making an immediate impact her first season as a Warhawk. Isis Villafane and Kaylee Vidmar make up a strong sophomore class Fone hopes to have at his disposal well into their high school careers. Villafane finished as the team’s leading scorer last season, helping the Warhawks average 1.22 points per match. 

As for his seniors, Fone said Sage Stroud can be expected to help Ridgevue finally break out onto the SIC scene. 

“Sage is a savvy midfielder that can read the field well and is like having another coach on the field,” he said. “She is very versatile and can play any position on the field. This year, Sage will be expected to bounce around and help lead this team from multiple positions.”

In the 4A High Country Conference, Skyline looks to redeem itself after a third-place loss to Bishop Kelly. The Grizzlies lost just three matches in 2019, going undefeated in conference play and leading the district in points per game (4.12) and opponents points per game (0.76). And the Great Basin, home to just seven teams instead of 10, will look to Twin Falls as its representative in the state playoffs. The Bruins, an undefeated conference player in 2019, averaged the most points per match among all 4A teams with 6.57.


CLASS 3A

Beating the Coeur d’Alene Charter Panthers is no easy feat. 

At the 3A level, no team has managed to squeak one past the defending state champions in four years, with the Panthers’ last loss dating back to 2016 against Timberlake. The Panthers have also filled out their trophy case quite nicely the last decade, winning five of the last six state tournaments. The Weiser Wolverines were the only team to get one over Coeur d’Alene Charter in that stretch, but the Panthers still managed a second-place finish in 2015. 

The Bonners Ferry Badgers, another 3A Intermountain League team, will do their best to keep the Panthers out of playoff contention down the stretch. 

Coach Emily Winebark returns a host of leadership from 2019’s 3-8-4 squad, including junior forward Morgan Burt and senior sweeper Lily Blackmore. Winebark said the pair showcase exceptional speed on the pitch last season, giving a valuable balance to her offense and defense. 

“Last season, our job was to reset, and build an identity,” Winebark said. “Many of our players were defeated and unmotivated. I wanted us to realize our full potential and what we were actually capable of as long as we decided to give the season everything. I think the girls shocked themselves and our community by how much they improved and built their identity around giving 100% all the time and growing closer as a team family.”

Sun Valley Community School will be one of many teams looking to finally end the Panther dynasty in 2020. The Cutthroats won last year’s 3A consolation bracket, defeating Grangeville 2-0 in the finals. 

Luckily for Coach Kelly Feldman, last year’s leading scorer and senior co-captain Christine Estep returns to the squad. Feldman also returns Falon Hanna and senior goalkeeper Julia Ott, making for a roster filled to the brim with depth and experience. 

With 11 straight district titles under their belt, the Cutthroats again will likely dominate the 3A High Desert Conference. But the higher level of competition in the playoffs compared to the regular season can serve as a bit of a shock, something Feldman said her team will need to adjust to should they want to challenge CDA Charter. 

“We struggle to recreate the pressure and intensity of the state tournament games,” Feldman said. “We don’t face many challenges in our league games so trying to prepare for state is our biggest challenge.”

Conference rival Gooding will aim to not be just another bump in the road to another Sun Valley playoff appearance. Last year, Coach Chris Thompson’s Senators finished 9-8-1, but lost three matches to the Cutthroats by a combined score of 23-0. Regardless, Thompson said last year’s winning season, Goodings’ best showing in eight years, gave his 2020 team much more hope heading into fall. 

Defender Monserrat Ferreira, Ace Stiffler and Laura Thompson all return to the team, helping Thompson on the back and front line. But communication on the field, the Senator coach said, remains an area of improvement. 

In the Snake River Conference, McCall-Donnelly returns a deep roster from 2019. But an upset at the hands of Weiser in the district tournament kept the Vandals from reaching the state playoff. 

“Every game is won in the last minutes of the second half,” said McCall-Donnelly Coach Pim Hoogland. “We have to sustain our fitness and focus to make sure we are the stronger team at the end of the game and season.”

The Vandals topped both offensive and defensive conference statistical categories in 2019, and many of the stars from that squad return for 2020. 

Caeley Ryan, Mia McSherry and Byne Value all make a return on offense. The Vandals’ also welcome back their senior goalkeeper Brooke Richardson. But without Jessica Jones, a lockdown midfielder last year, Hoogland said he’ll need this year’s seniors to step up and lead his underclassmen.

Much of that leadership will need to start on the offense. 

“We worked well at developing the attack from the back and forcing the opponent's attack to the outside,” he said. “These are critical team skills that we will bring forward to this year’s effort.”

 
 


Fan Comments
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Ninazogg
9/4/2020 10:40:46 PM
Eastern Idaho
I just would like to know why you always overlook Eastern Idaho. And when you do mention an Eastern Idaho school, Sugar is the only 3A school you ever mention. It is not only in soccer but all sports. Please give the schools on this side of the state the credit that is due.















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