Walking off the field last November after going to penalty kicks and losing to San Jose State in the Mountain West Conference semifinals, even the veterans on the Boise State women’s soccer team weren’t sure what to expect heading into the 2019 season.
The Broncos had just lost in the conference semifinals for the second year in a row, and their all-time leading scorer, Raimee Sherle of Meridian, was contemplating skipping her senior season to go on an LDS mission, which would have taken her off the soccer field for at least a year and a half.
A little more than a year later, those same Boise State veterans are feeling pretty upbeat about the future, and they’re pretty happy Sherle decided to come back for one more season.
On Saturday, Sherle scored her conference-record 61st career goal and Boise State topped San Diego State 2-0 at the Boas Soccer Complex to collect its first Mountain West tournament championship in program history and earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“She just puts so much into it. I think she’s definitely left her legacy here,” said Boise State senior McKenna Kynett, who notched a goal of her own in the Broncos’ second Mountain West final appearance in program history. “(She’s the) best there ever was, and I was lucky enough to play with her.”
Sherle wasn’t heavily recruited out of Rocky Mountain High because of her size, but the 5-foot-2 forward needed just three seasons to break Boise State’s and the Mountain West’s career goals records, and earlier this season, she set the conference’s career points mark, which now stands at 138.
“She’s the best player in conference history statistically,” Boise State women’s soccer coach Jim Thomas said. “… Best player I’ve ever coached, and what makes her as good as she is, it’s the character inside her and who she is as a person. That translates to the field and her whole team. She’s a special human as well as a special player.”
Sherle went as far as to file paperwork for her mission, but those plans changed last November, not long after the season ended. Her boyfriend, Hunter, returned from his mission to Mexico and they plan to get married in December.
“Some things are more important than others,” said Sherle, who made it obvious on Saturday that she was quite pleased with her decision to return for her senior season. “This is unreal. I hope one day it hits me. Everyone always dreams this is the way they would go out, senior year and win the whole thing. I’m just speechless.”
Saturday’s win earned the Broncos an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It’s their first berth since 2009 — the year they won the Western Athletic Conference title. The 64-team field will be announced Monday, and opening-round games begin Friday.
“We’re going to celebrate and enjoy this one for a while, but come this weekend, we’re going to see who we can take on,” Sherle said. “We’re excited.”
The top-seeded Broncos (18-4) were in the right place at the right time Saturday on both of their goals. In the 16th minute, Sherle got her left foot on the ball after a shot from teammate Emily Curry deflected off a San Diego State defender. The ball nestled into the back of the net and Sherle disappeared into a mob of ecstatic teammates as her 16th goal of the season gave the Broncos a 1-0 lead, which stood through halftime.
“These games are a lot less about tactics and techniques, and at times they’re more about heart and passion,” Thomas said. “We needed that today and we showed it.”
In the 49th minute, a Boise State corner kick was long but Aubree Chatterton — stationed beyond the crowd in front of the goal for that very situation — was there to loft the ball back into play. Kynett — several inches shorter than the Aztec defender tasked with shielding her from the ball — emerged from the mass of bodies and admitted she got more of the side of her face than her forehead on the ball, but it still counted for a 2-0 lead.
“That’s usually how my life is, to be honest,” said Kynett, who checks in at 5-3, “but I’ve learned tactics to jump in front of them and go across their eyes, and luckily that time I got that one.”
Thomas said that seven years ago when he was hired, he wrote a five-year plan to get the Broncos into the position they currently find themselves in — Mountain West champions and heading to the NCAA Tournament.
“It took us a little bit longer than I had planned. This conference is a lot better than I thought,” he said. “But certainly it makes the win that much sweeter knowing that we’ve had to go through what we’ve had to go through to get here.”