Kathleen McGrath’s floater over the head of Santa Clara Sporting goalkeeper Racquel Blassingame in the 66th minute was easily the biggest goal of her young soccer career.
And it wasn’t simply because McGrath’s shot proved to be the game-winner in her team’s Far West Regional pool play game Tuesday at Simplot Sports Complex in Boise.
It was a milestone for the entire INDiE CHiCAS organization.
The Indie Chicas Lime U-13 squad became the club’s first team to qualify for the Far West tournament with their victory in the state cup in late May.
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Now the same group of girls has taken their game a step further by advancing out of pool play and into the quarterfinals, which begin Friday.
“There’s a lot of success on the horizon, and these (girls) are certainly carving the path out for everybody,” said Michael Mollay, Chicas Director of Coaching and head coach of the U-13s. “They play at an extremely high level. We compete in regional and national events, and they are highly competitive with the top clubs in the country. They are really setting the standard.”
After Tuesday’s games, the Chicas are the only Idaho team out of the 17 at Far West to start the tournament with a 2-0 record. The Chicas beat Montana’s Magic City White 6-1 on Monday and edged Santa Clara Sporting (N. Calif.) 2-1 with a pair of second-half goals from Mylee Carver and McGrath on Tuesday.
“We are incredibly proud of them,” Chicas President and Founder Sean O’Gara said. “But when you look and see the work that goes into it, not only on the field during training but how much these girls play off the field, it’s not a surprise. They are passionate about this game.”
The Chicas share the lead in Pool A with Utah’s La Roca PO, a team they face at 11 a.m. Wednesday on Field 5A. Win or lose, both teams advance to Friday’s knockout round.
The Chicas organization is the newest club to break into the competitive soccer scene in the Treasure Valley. The club has grown from 24 players two years ago to more than 220 this season. The Chicas’ U-12, U-13 and U-14 teams won their respective divisions of the Idaho Youth Soccer Association league this past spring.
“The bottom line is we want to stay small. We want to be a small, elite-level club. We want to be girls only,” Mollay said. “As a result, the decisions that we make are geared toward fostering that culture. It’s small. It’s intimate. We connect with families. We connect with players. On the bigger club side of things, that’s really challenging to do.”
O’Gara originally founded the Chicas as a recreational team based in Eagle while coaching his daughter’s young team.
“Most of our girls are from the Eagle area and some are from Meridian, so it didn’t make sense for us to make that big commute out to Lake Hazel where the FC Nova fields are,” said O’Gara, a former Fresno State and European pro soccer player. “So we went independent.”
The Chicas practice on fields owned by Friendship Celebration Lutheran Church off Chinden Boulevard in Eagle. The majority of the Chicas’ staff is made up of volunteers who do everything from coach to field maintenance. Mollay is the only paid employee, helping to keep costs at a minimum.
“I just can’t emphasize it enough that we have a tremendous stable of coaches who are all over-qualified to do what they are doing,” O’Gara said. “And yet they just dig it. They are just passionate about it.”
The players are digging it, too.
“My old club wasn’t really cutting it for me. It wasn’t intense like I wanted it to be. I wanted more,” McGrath said. “So I joined the Chicas, because I knew that they were such a good team. I’m really glad I did.”