Raimee Sherle was the first Boise State starter summoned to the bench in the second half.
One by one, the rest of the Broncos’ starters followed, each receiving the same ovation. Mikayla Schachtell was the final starter to exit, taking a seat on the bench in the 79th minute.
It was the earliest the senior center back had left the field in 12 games, and a sure sign that the Broncos were on their way to a historic finish.
Sherle notched her first hat trick of the season — and fifth of her career — and the Boise State defense posted its 12th shutout of 2019 in a 6-0 victory over New Mexico in a Mountain West Tournament semifinal Thursday afternoon at Boas Soccer Complex.
Top-seeded Boise State (17-4-0) will face No. 2 San Diego State (10-8-1) in the title match at noon Saturday. The winner receives the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“(The crowd) is so in the moment. They’re acknowledging the performances and the seasons and the careers that these guys have had,” Boise State coach Jim Thomas said. “I think they’re relishing the last moments that they’re going to get to share with them, and our guys are relishing the last moments to play in front of them as well.
“Certainly all of the players who started the game today contributed to our successes over the course of the last four years. This season itself of 17 wins is one that no one is ever going to forget. I think that’s what you’re hearing from that crowd.”
The Broncos’ six goals tied for the third-most in a single game in Mountain West Tournament history, and Sherle became only the third player in the 21-year history of the tournament to score three goals in a game. The last player to accomplish the feat was BYU’s Jeni Viernes in 2002.
Sherle, who broke the conference’s career goals record as a junior and the career points record this season, now has 60 goals and 136 points in her time at Boise State.
“Nothing is given to you. Everything is earned until you need to go out and take it,” Sherle said. “I think we went out and took it today. We wanted it really bad, and you could see that from how we played on the pitch.”
In the span of 1 minute, 59 seconds, Boise State’s semifinal went from a scoreless deadlock to a rout.
Sherle scored her first goal of the game unassisted in the 24th minute, and she found the back of the net again 58 seconds later on an assist from senior forward Kristina Serres. Junior forward Aubree Chatterton made it 3-0 Boise State in the 26th minute off a rebounded shot from Serres.
And the Broncos were far from done.
Freshman forward Gabby Gillespie replaced Sherle in the 37th minute and extended the Broncos’ lead to 4-0 with a goal set up by junior Ashleigh Harrison in the 44th minute. Boise State outshot New Mexico 14-6 in the first half and held a 4-0 lead at the break.
“There really wasn’t four goals in that first half for us, but somehow, for all the ones that we’ve missed in the past, everything that we touched went into the goal,” Thomas said. “It was a glorious day for us.”
Sherle collected the hat trick with the help of senior midfielder McKenna Kynett in the 55th minute, and Gillespie stretched the Broncos’ advantage to 6-0 with her second goal of the game and third of her career in the 85th.
Sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Smith made five saves for her 12th clean sheet of the season, which is a single-season program record. Smith is only the fifth keeper — and first sophomore — in Mountain West history to post 12 shutouts in a season.
“You could just tell the emotion was there,” Schachtell said. “Everyone was just hyped and wanted to come back, especially after last week’s loss. We just knew what was on the line, and we just wanted to give our full effort. The defense was there, didn’t let many shots off, and our forwards put it away for us.”
Boise State has never won a Mountain West Tournament title in women’s soccer, and the Broncos have one NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009.
“I’m not ready to soak it all in yet,” Sherle said. “Ask me Saturday at 4 p.m., with a championship ring, hopefully.”