Despite loss, Idaho soccer team makes history with national tournament berth

Boise Thorns U-15 girls fall in shootout at Far West

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The Boise Thorns U-15 girls soccer team came up just short of winning the second Far West regional title in state history Sunday, falling 3-1 to Utah’s Celtic FC in penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie.

But the Thorns can console themselves with another bit of history: They are just the third team in Idaho history to qualify for the U.S. Youth Soccer Nationals Championships next month.

Celtic FC had already clinched its spot in the national championship tournament July 23-28 outside of Kansas City by winning its national league division. That allows the second-place finisher from the Far West tournament, the Thorns, to advance to the eight-team national tournament as well.

“I’m excited to raise our game and see how we match up against these others girls,” Thorns winger Avery McBride said. “It’ll be exciting. We’re from Idaho, so we’re always the underdog. To be at a tournament like that, playing against bigger teams and bigger clubs, it’s awesome.”

The 2015 U-19 Nova-Nationals girls and 2013 U-15 Boise Nationals girls were the only two previous Idaho teams to advance to nationals. The U-19 Nova-Nationals won the only Far West title in state history and finished second at nationals. The U-15 Boise Nationals also advanced to nationals as a wild card but didn’t advance out of their group.

Avery McBride of the Boise Thorns leaps in celebration after scoring the tying goal against Utah Celtic FC in the girls U-15 Far West Regional championship match Sunday, June 23, 2019 at Simplot Sports Complex in East Boise. The match remained tied after two extra periods, but Utah Celtic FC won the title match with penalty kicks. Darin Oswald

Even though both the Thorns and Celtic had assured their spots at nationals entering Sunday, neither side took the morning off. Celtic looked to turn the game into a blowout when it jumped out to a 2-0 lead as Ellie Tadjue scored off a corner kick in the third minute and Pyper Vance added another in the 10th minute.

But the Thorns rallied and outmuscled the Utah club for the next 70 minutes, racking up 14 shots on goal to Utah’s seven.

Kyndra Lyons put the Thorns on the board in the 28th minute when McBride found her at the edge of the 6-yard box with a low cross. McBride then netted the equalizer in the 72nd minute after Lyons fired two shots off a charging goalkeeper sliding toward her. Both went to the ground on the second shot, which rebounded out wide to McBride on the right for an empty-net goal.

“We were a little shaken at the start,” said McBride, an incoming sophomore at Mountain View High. “... But my team is definitely fighters. We wanted that really bad and we weren’t going to back down. The last 70 minutes, it was our game.

“... It’s definitely hard when you’re down 2-0, but we just wanted to prove ourselves and shock the world. That’s what the parents were saying: ‘We’re just the small team from Idaho.’ We just wanted to definitely prove ourselves.”

Boise Thorns’ Hayden Wilsey collides with Utah Celtic FC’s Ellie Ford, right, at she tries to shoot around keeper Brooklyn Northcutt during the girls U-15 Far West Regional championship match Sunday, June 23, 2019 at Simplot Sports Complex in East Boise. Darin Oswald

Neither team could find the winner in overtime, sending it to a shootout, where Celtic goalkeeper Brooklyn Northcutt stole the show. She dove down to the ground to stop Halle Hatten’s shot in the opening round. Natasja Davis slipped and sailed her offering wide right in the third round. And then Northcutt made a diving stop of McBride in the fourth round to mathematically end the shootout there with a 3-1 lead.

All three Utah shooters converted. The fourth and fifth never stepped to the line thanks to Northcutt’s saves.

“She guessed right on both of those,” Thorns coach Jason Vittrup said. “She made some really good saves during the game, too. If it wasn’t for her, I think we would have won, to be honest.”

Avery McBride passes center for an assist to Boise Thorns teammate Kyndra Lyons. Lyons’ first-half goal put the score at 2-1 in favor of Utah Celtic FC during the girls U-15 Far West Regional championship match Sunday, June 23, 2019 at Simplot Sports Complex in East Boise. Darin Oswald

The Thorns’ U-15 team entered the tournament with few, if any, expectations. A year ago, it was regularly blown out during its ECNL games, and Lyons said she didn’t expect to make it out of the group stage at Far West.

But the Thorns won all three games to win their group. They then knocked off Hawaii’s Leahi 3-0 in the quarterfinals before Lyons’ 75th-minute game winner led Boise to a 1-0 victory in the semifinals, clinching a spot at the national tournament.

Lyons said the relationships the team has formed the past two years put it in a position to make an underdog run at Idaho history.

“The love that we have for each other and the love we have for the game really brings us together as a family,” said Lyons, an incoming sophomore at Meridian High. “I love every single one of those girls. I play my best to help them. I love them and I love the game so much, I can’t afford to not work hard for them.”

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