The Boise Thorns qualified four girls soccer teams Saturday for the semifinals of the U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships, an Idaho record.
But only one navigated its way through the toughest teams from 13 Western states for a shot at history.
The U-15 Boise Thorns dispatched Washington’s Eastside Premier with a 1-0 victory at Boise’s Simplot Sports Complex. They advance to face Utah’s Celtic FC at 8 a.m. Sunday with a chance to become the second Far West regional champion in Idaho history.
Few would have expected this group to be the one gunning for history entering the season, Thorns coach Jason Vittrup admits. A back-to-back Idaho State Cup champ, the team struggled last year regionally and was regularly getting blown out during its games in the ECNL (Elite Clubs National League), the top girls club soccer league in the country.
But he said the team has matured right in front of his eyes.
“Part of it is we had some good players join us at tryouts. And part of it is the kids have just grown,” Vittrup said. “They have learned how to compete.”
Kyndra Lyons, an incoming sophomore at Meridian High, carried the Thorns through the semifinals with her 75th-minute goal.
London Carter fired a 20-yard shot off the crossbar, and Hayden Wilsey tried to bury the rebound only to have it blocked. The ball then found Lyons, who squared up a laser from 8 yards out for the game’s only goal and her fourth of the tournament.
“She is very aggressive and has a nose for goal,” Vittrup said. “She’s sharky. She steals balls off opponents all the time.”
Goalkeeper Molly McCabe made Lyons’ lone goal stand with a shutout, the Thorns’ fourth in five games.
U-18 GIRLS FALL IN PENALTIES
Utah’s Caroline Stringfellow forced penalty kicks when she cleaned up a loose ball in the box off a corner kick in stoppage time for her second goal of the game. She then buried the game-winning spot kick as La Roca’s fifth and final shooter.
Thorns forward Lauren Elwer — a Bishop Kelly grad, Gonzaga signee and Idaho’s all-class high school player of the year — netted a hat trick for Boise. She scored what looked like the game-winner in the 99th minute when Kearney Hoggan sprung her for a breakaway, deking the goalie to find an open net.
But the Thorns’ short bench caught up with them after 120 minutes and five games in six days, Thorns coach Tom Fetzer said. The club suited up 10 players until the final of the State Cup championship last month, then only had 12 players until the knockout round started Friday, when Borah grads and Utah signees Payton McBride and Kylee Geis returned from summer workouts with the Utes.
“Obviously it stings to not be advancing to the final, but I’m super proud of these girls,” said Fetzer, whose team fielded eight Division I signees or commits. “They’ve worked extremely hard throughout their career and it’s a testament to who they are.”
U-19 GIRLS GIVE UP LATE GAME-WINNER
The Boise Thorns pushed Utah’s Celtic FC, the current Far West league champ, to the brink Saturday morning. But Utah’s Anna Pickering broke a scoreless tie in the 85th minute for a 1-0 win that ended the Thorns’ upset bid.
U-16 GIRLS CAN’T STOP NEVADA POWER
Las Vegas Sports Academy, a current national league division champ, has steamrolled through the U-16 girls bracket, entering Saturday’s semifinal outscoring its opponents 25-1 in four games.
They added another win with a 3-0 victory over the Boise Thorns to advance to Sunday’s championship.
After a shaky start, Thorns goalkeeper Kelsey Jargstorf stood on her head to keep Boise in the game. She made six saves to maintain a 1-0 deficit before Las Vegas converted a pair of chances in the final 10 minutes.