Makayla Christensen didn’t play for the Centennial High girls soccer team at last year’s 5A state tournament after tearing her MCL.
When Christensen took a shoulder to the head in the first half of Wednesday’s 5A District Three Tournament championship game, and had to be carted off the field, she couldn’t help but wonder if her season would end early again.
But the junior forward and 5A Southern Idaho Conference’s leading scorer was cleared to return in the second half and scored the game-winner in the 63rd minute for a 1-0 victory against Boise and the Patriots’ first district title since 2010.
“I know there are a lot of really good teams out here,” Christensen said. “It was definitely going to be a challenge for our team, but as a team, I knew that we could step up and rise to the challenge.”
Although Christensen was allowed to return with 20 minutes left in the game, she was under strict orders not to head the ball, and those instructions may have put her in the right place at the right time on one corner kick.
“As the ball came in, I was making sure that I didn’t head it, and it goes back behind me, and it was bouncing around. It was really hectic,” Christensen said. “It popped out, and I just had a really easy, one-touch in. It was a perfect corner kick.”
Junior midfielder Aanika Stevens was credited with the assist, booting the corner kick squarely in front of the goal into a sea of white and red jerseys.
“We feel pretty confident with our corners,” Centennial coach Steven Snider said. “It is something we work on a lot, and it was one of those days where we took advantage of the first opportunity and knocked something in. That changes games at this point.”
Centennial (14-0-3) will be the district’s No. 1 seed at next week’s state tournament in Coeur d’Alene, and the Patriots draw a familiar opponent in the first round — Mountain View (11-5-2), which earned the league’s No. 4 seed after beating Borah on penalty kicks Tuesday.
Boise (12-3-3) plays the winner of Saturday’s play-in game between Coeur d’Alene and Rocky Mountain (13-3-2). Timberline, the No. 3 seed, faces the eastern champion, which will be determined Thursday between Highland and Madison.
While the Patriots have won back-to-back state championships, Snider said each season has presented its own challenges.
“We’ve talked a lot about the need to put a new stamp on this season and this team,” Snider said. “Although there’s a decent amount of returning players, this team has to create its own identity and its own path and accomplish things on its own.”
Since the Idaho High School Activities Association began sponsoring the state tournament in 2000, no 5A girls soccer team has won three titles in a row. Boise won back-to-back championships twice (2002-03, 2009-10), while Eagle (2004-05), Timberline (2007-08) and Centennial (2014-15) have each accomplished the repeat once.
“There definitely are going to be a lot of obstacles that come, but I know that we’ve put in so much work throughout this season and overcome a lot of things,” said Christensen, who is committed to Utah. “There is such good talent out here that I know we can come together. Toward the end, I think there will be a lot of intensity going into it knowing we want to win.”
CENTENNIAL 1, BOISE 0
The second-seeded Patriots (14-2-2) upended No. 1 Boise (13-3-1) for their first boys district championship since 2008 on Wednesday at Timberline High.
Senior midfielder Alex Draghici scored the game’s only goal in the opening 10 minutes off a cross from fellow senior Skyler Kjellander.
“They were happy, because they hadn’t won anything as a high school team yet,” Centennial coach Scott Lewis said. “But they know that it is just a stepping stone to our ultimate goal, which is winning state.”
4A soccer titles on line today
- GIRLS: Bishop Kelly (16-2-0) goes for its eighth straight district championship when it hosts Skyview (12-4-2) at 5 p.m.
- BOYS: Skyview (13-2-2) has won nine of the past 12 district titles, but defending champion and top-seeded Caldwell (12-1-5) is the favorite for this 5 p.m. matchup at Caldwell High.