For years, the Idaho State Cup youth soccer championships were predictable.
The Boise Nationals dominated the boys, FC Nova ruled the girls and the rest of the state’s club pieced together a title run here and there.
But Monday showcased the state’s burgeoning depth.
Idaho Rush won three boys state championships at the Simplot Sports Complex (U-19/20, U-14, U-13) a year after Boise Nationals swept the boys. And Rush added a pair of titles in girls (U-14, U-13).
The weekend gave Rush five combined state titles, one more than both the Boise Nationals and FC Nova.
“There is more parity happening here in the Valley. That’s really important,” Idaho Rush U-19 boys coach Michael Mollay said. “It continues to push and challenge every club to continue to do well.
“Rush has been one of those mainstay clubs, and they’re continuing to prove they’re doing it both on the boys and girls sides.”
Winners of the state club soccer championships advance to the Far West Regionals on June 19-25 in Seattle.
GAME OF THE DAY
Ninety minutes wasn’t enough, nor was two overtimes periods, nor five penalty shooters.
It took a sixth round of penalty kicks for Idaho Rush to edge the Boise Nationals 5-4 on PKs after a 2-2 draw in regulation in the U-19/20 boys championship game.
“PKs is not a great way to end a game,” Idaho Rush’s Rowan Pierson said. “It’s always very stressful. But it’s almost a fitting end because it goes either way, and that’s the way it’s been with these two teams. It goes either way.
“In the end, it was just a relief.”
Idaho Rush routed the Nationals 5-1 on the opening day of the State Cup tournament, but the second meeting was much tighter.
Boise Nationals’ Ahmet Huremovic opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a 30-yard laser he snuck under the crossbar. Idaho Rush took a 2-1 lead when Pierson one-timed a shot from 20 yards in the 37th minute then took advantage of a Nationals own goal in the 52nd.
But Travis Swallow’s 40-yard through ball landed at the feet of Cole Fuller for the equalizer in the 77th minute to send the game into overtime and penalties.
Rush goalkeeper Tanner Bengtzen and Nationals goalie Ian Linnarz each opened the shootout with saves before both teams converted their next four spot kicks. But in sudden death penalties, Bengtzen changed strategies, opting to sit on his line and react to a shot instead of guessing which way to dive.
He read Enrique Sanchez’s target as the lower right corner, dove and turned away the shot to set off a bench-clearing celebration.
Rush’s oldest team hadn’t won a state title since U-14.
“Based on how long I’ve been here, I know the whole Nationals-Rush thing has been an ongoing rivalry for years,” said Bengtzen, who moved to Boise last summer from Utah. “With all the smack talk coming into this game, it feels good to come and play these guys twice in the same tournament and beat them both times to prove that Rush is taking it more serious this year and has more ambitions.”
PENALTIES NEEDED FOR U-15 GIRLS
FC Nova Elite and Indie Chicas also needed a shootout to determine their state championship match after 100 scoreless minutes.
After practicing their penalty kicks for the past three weeks, Nova went 4-for-4 at the spot to pull out a 4-2 victory.
Hannah Hust buried the game winner by beating Chicas goalkeeper Breanna Norris, who guessed correctly, to the left side netting.
“I was really nervous,” Hust said. “I just had to breathe and just finish it — not overthink it and just pass it to a corner. I knew where I was going to the whole time. I had thought about it a lot.”
Nova goalkeeper Kasey Wardle stood on her head during regulation, stopping two sure goals with diving stops. She dove to her right to stop a shot along the ground from inside the 6-yard box before halftime and followed it in the second half with a fully extended dive in the 45th minute.
Wardle joined Nova this season after playing recreational soccer in Henderson, Nev., last year.
“She’s unbelievable,” FC Nova coach Eric Simmonsen said. “She’s being looked at by Pac-12 schools already, and she’s an eighth grader. She’s so young.”