FC Nova U-18 girls soccer advances to Far West finals
One more victory, and FC Nova’s U-18 girls soccer team becomes just the second regional club champion in Idaho history.
One more victory, and everyone on the team gets new shoes.
Nova switched to adidas gear this season, and all the younger clubs below U-18 received new shoes. But after a 3-2 victory over Northern California’s West Coast Wild on Saturday in the Far West Regional semifinals, Nova struck a deal with the club’s technical director, Gavin Kempe.
A regional title over Southern California’s Beach Academy at 8:45 a.m. Sunday at Boise’s Simplot Sports Complex earns Nova new cleats in addition to a berth in the national championships July 26-31 in Frisco, Texas.
“It is kind of an emotional time for us,” Nova forward Karli Stone said. “I think we want to stay together as long as we can, so we keep winning. We’re really excited for (Sunday).
“We’re nervous. But if we win, we get shoes,” she joked.
Stone got Nova started Saturday, running down a clearance in the fifth minute that didn’t reach the sideline. The Troy University signee then turned, beat two defenders and fired a shot into the upper corner of the net for an early lead.
Nova came at West Coast in waves in the opening minutes but only had one goal to show for it at halftime before Stone struck again two minutes after the break for her fourth goal of the tournament. Three of the Eagle High graduate’s goals have come in the knockout stage.
“She has found a run this weekend,” Nova coach Brian Smith said. “She’s always been a fantastic player for us. But all of a sudden, she’s just found a form that she’s so difficult to handle. Two early goals in each half, working her tail off? You can’t ask for more.”
West Coast cut the lead to 2-1 in the 67th minute, but Boise High graduate Maya Chavez put the game out of reach in the 75th minute when she one-touched a cross from Alexa Glick back into the box and fired in an insurance goal.
Haley Bostard’s header pulled West Coast back within one in the 81st minute, but Nova held on to advance to Sunday’s championship.
“The second half, we were back on our heels a ton,” Smith said. “But as we just talked about, the mark of a good, quality squad playing at this level is you’re going to have times when you’re not playing your best and you’ve got to find ways to stay in the match, stay organized, pick your moments.”
Nova registered four shots on goal Saturday. Three found the back of the net.
Idaho’s only previous regional championship came last year, when Nova and the Boise Nationals combined forces to win the U-19 championship. That team advanced to the national championship game before falling on penalty kicks.
This year’s U-18 squad missed regionals the past three years with commitments to its Elite Club National League schedule. But one more win Sunday allows Nova to take its place in Idaho soccer history.
“It’s really exciting since we never really had the opportunity,” Chavez said. “I don’t know. It’s so surreal. No emotions have really hit me.”
U-18 girls: FC Nova vs. Beach Academy, 8:45 a.m. at Simplot Sports Complex (Field 18)
Full Far West championship schedule, 5B
Nova still alive at ECNL Champions League
After winning their opener Friday, FC Nova’s U-15 girls lost 2-0 to FC Boston on Saturday at the championship tournament of the top girls club soccer league in the country.
Nova and the other three teams in its group are all 1-1-0 after two games. Only the winner of Group E advances to the quarterfinals.
Nova plays SC Del Sol of Phoenix in the group finale at 1:30 p.m. MT Monday in Oceanside, Calif.