Despite 120 minutes of near flawless defense, the FC Nova Nationals U-19 girls saw the US Youth Soccer National Championship slip through their hands.
The Nova Nationals held Nebraska’s Gretna Prima Green scoreless through regulation and two 15-minute overtimes, but the Idaho club went cold when the game went to penalty kicks, losing 4-1 at the Mohawk Sports Complex in Tulsa, Okla.
Their runner-up finish is the top performance in Idaho history.
“One sentiment that’s really true is the bar has been raised for Idaho teams,” Nova Nationals coach Eric Simmonsen said.
“... The buzz we’ve created, and the buzz that’s happening and these girls coming together, it takes a community. With our population, our base and where we come from, everything, I think it stresses it even that much more that when we do it together, some pretty special things can happen.”
Gretna Prima converted on its first three PKs, while the Nova Nationals had their first attempt miss off the left post and the second scooped up by Gretna keeper Ashley Malloy.
Sophia Kallas (Boise High, Western Washington) scored for the Nova Nationals with a floater over Malloy’s head to cut Gretna’s advantage to 3-1, but Miranda Swift sealed Gretna’s win moments later by tucking the ball just inside the right post and out of the reach of Nova Nationals keeper Sasha Holt (Mountain View High, Walla Walla Community College). Mollay, Michelle Xiao and Audra Keehn also made PKs for Gretna.
The Nova Nationals finished the tournament allowing just one goal, which came in a 2-1 win over Gretna Prima on Thursday in group play.
Holt was awarded the Golden Glove, which goes to the top goalkeeper based on a vote by opposing teams. She did not allow a goal the entire tournament.
The Nova Nationals’ Holt, Grace Hancock (Boise High, Washington State) and Hallie Widner (Rocky Mountain High, Montana) — who broke her leg on Wednesday — were voted to the Best 11, which recognizes the top players in the tournament.
“It’s been pretty special, the people sending us messages, calling us. It’s just a phenomenal experience all around,” Simmonsen said. “To be able to represent Idaho, and hopefully we represented them well. We’ll try to keep raising the bar and keep pushing the sport forward.”
Players from Meridian-based FC Nova and the Boise Nationals agreed to combine forces in May with the goal of making Idaho history.
The Nova Nationals won the state’s first Far West Regional title in June to become only the second Idaho team to advance to nationals. They then became the first Idaho team to advance out of pool play at nationals.
The Boise Nationals U-15 girls reached nationals as a wild card in 2013, going 1-2-0 before being eliminated in group play.