The Treasure Valley’s top two youth soccer clubs, the Boise Nationals and FC Nova, combined forces in May to gun for the state’s first regional championship.
The road didn’t end there.
Winning the Far West title earned the U-19 FC Nova Nationals girls squad a berth in the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships, which kick off Tuesday in Tulsa, Okla.
The squad brought 18 of its 21 players from regionals to Oklahoma. And Nova Nationals coach Eric Simmonsen said the group isn’t resting on making Idaho history.
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“For them going as champions, they have the mindset of, ‘We want to win the whole thing,’ ” he said. “We want to go out and battle and compete, instead of potentially going with the mindset of, ‘OK, we’re here. Cool. We’re here and the journey is done.’
“I don’t think for these guys the journey is done.”
The Nova Nationals earned Idaho’s second berth to nationals after routing Southern California champion FRAM 5-1 in the regional finals at the Simplot Sports Complex in East Boise. The Boise Nationals U-15 girls reached nationals as a wild card in 2013, going 1-2-0 and being eliminated in group play.
Southern California typically dominates Region IV’s berths to the national tournament. Simmonsen said that may allow the Nova Nationals to sneak up on a few teams.
“Their pride being from Idaho is high,” he said. “So that’s a huge positive. They’ve been training well. They’re still learning. They’re still growing. They’re still taking in ideas, which is awesome. There hasn’t been any complacency on their part. They’ve checked all their egos at the door. That’ll be a huge plus for us going in.”
Grace Hancock said while the team formed only two months ago, building chemistry came naturally. Competing against each other for years bred intimate knowledge of their teammates.
“You pay attention to how to defend the other teams’ forwards, and what they’re good at and how they move,” said Hancock, who graduated from Boise High in January to join the Washington State women’s team early. “And likewise, on the other side, the forwards pay attention to the defenders. You really learn each other’s personalities playing against each other.”
The U-19 national tournament includes the four regional champions — the Nova Nationals, Tampa Bay United Premier, Beadling SC Thunder of Pittsburgh and Gretna Prima Green of Nebraska. The top two advance to the finals Saturday.
The Nova Nationals open with Beadling SC at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Simmonsen said getting any kind of a result, either a win or a draw, is key to reach Saturday.
Looking around his team’s group and talking with other coaches, he feels his team matches up well with the other regional champions. All 18 members of Nova Nationals either have completed a college season or are committed to a college program.
“You look at most of the rosters and compare them, we’re pretty comparable with D-I athletes, D-II, NAIA, etc.,” Simmonsen said. “There is nobody we’re playing that has eight girls at Stanford or eight girls at UCLA.”