Coach Jim Thomas feels comfortable talking about the expectations for his 2018 Boise State women’s soccer team straightaway.
“We want to win the whole thing,” Thomas said. “... We’re not shying away from the expectations here. We’ve worked really hard to have that be a realistic goal.
“In the building of a program, it takes a long time for you to get the culture correct. It takes a long time for you to get the right people through the door, and it takes a long time for the right culture and the right people through the door to get old.
“And when they’re old, they’re experienced and they know. We’re at that point now.”
Old isn’t an insult in this case.
The Broncos return 20 players from a 2017 team that tied the program record for most wins in a season with 13 and advanced to the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament.
Among that group is reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year Raimee Sherle, a Rocky Mountain High graduate who will be a junior. Sherle’s 18 goals ranked third in the entire NCAA last season, and her nine game-winning goals was an NCAA best.
Sherle, sophomore forward Aubree Chatterton (4 goals) and junior midfielder McKenna Kynett (6 goals) netted 28 of Boise State’s 38 goals last season, and the trio should pose an even bigger threat in 2018. Although the Broncos lost record-setting goalkeeper Janelle Flores to graduation, they return three of four starters on their back line: seniors Addison Standlee, Allegra Weeks and Eva Herrera.
“We’ve got a lot of talent that has come in, too, so I’m excited to see what they bring to this season and where we go with it,” Sherle said. “... We are holding ourselves to a high standard and hopefully exceeding the bar that we’ve set from last year.”
Nine of the 31 players on Boise State’s 2018 roster are Idaho products.
“We definitely had to earn our way here. We had to fight tooth and nail to get in the spots that we’re in,” said Standlee, a Rocky Mountain grad. “It means a little bit more to us, and the games mean a little bit more to us because, one, we’re playing in front of the people that we grew up around who helped us get here. And two, we want to prove to them that we deserve to be where we’re at and that this Valley has more than enough talent to play at the collegiate level and the highest level.”
To prove that point and achieve the goals the Broncos have set for themselves this season — a Mountain West championship and an NCAA Tournament berth — they’ll have to push their game to an unprecedented level. The Broncos have just one conference title and NCAA appearance, and both came in 2009 as a member of the WAC.
The Broncos can no longer afford to lose — or even tie — winnable matches, starting with their season opener against Idaho at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Boas Soccer Complex in Boise.
“I think it’s a big turning point for us, because teams like Idaho and Idaho State and other closer Big Sky opponents that we play, we’ve been a little back and forth in our results the past few years,” Standlee said. “And our team’s at a place now where we can decide to either move forward or stay where this program has been at for the last 20 years.
“I think everyone on the team is on the same page. We’re ready to step forward and make it clear that we’re cut different here. What we do on a day-to-day basis is different than the things that those programs are doing.”
Last season, Boise State lost its opener 1-0 to Montana on Aug. 18 and played to a 1-1 tie with Idaho on Aug. 25. The Vandals scored on a free kick with 4 seconds left to force the tie.
Before its 1-0 ouster against San Diego State in the 2017 Mountain West semifinals, Boise State closed the season on a five-game winning streak and eight-game unbeaten streak, which is the longest unbeaten streak in program history.
“We feel like we’ve established ourselves as the premier program in the state of Idaho and one of the top ones in the Pacific Northwest and West Coast as well,” Thomas said. “But we want to continue to build that brand and put that out there, so winning these games is key for recruiting and establishing that kind of reputation. But more importantly in a 20-game season, this is a winnable game, and we’ve got to win it.”