Sports

Boise soccer team will make Idaho history

Boise soccer team will make Idaho history
The U-15 Boise Nationals Italia girls soccer team heads for the U.S. Youth Soccer national championships this month - the first team from Idaho ever to qualify.

After winning their league, the team headed to the Idaho State Cup - where the Nationals knocked off twice-defending champion Coeur D'Alene Sting.

Winning the Idaho Cup meant a place in the Farwest Regional Championships in Hawai'i, and a chance to meet one of the team's preseason goals.

"We had a retreat and it was -8 [outside] so there wasn't much snow play we could do," head coach Mark Prince said of the January team event in Cascade.

"We ended up creating some goals - which was our intent for the trip anyway - and one of them was to win at regionals. Not 'win regionals' but win at regionals."

There were other goals set that weekend, too.

"We learned how to give constructive criticism sandwiches," Prince said. "Hey, I love you, but I'd like to see you do better at this, but you're SO good at this!"

Sure, it's cliche - but the team bought in and has enjoyed the rewards on and off the field.

"We're like family," defender Christa Lewis said. This is her first year on the team and she drives three times a week from Mountain Home to participate.

"It makes the long trips so much easier; there's no cliques on this team. If one of us is dragging their feet, we go by and pick them up," Lewis said.

Trust translates to confidence, which lead to lots of wins this year. The team allowed just two goals during the regular season - and its defensive strength helped in Hawai'i, too.

At regionals, the Nationals squeaked into quarterfinals on goal differential: scoring more goals and allowing fewer than the teams the Nationals were tied in the standings with.

Once in, they upset two teams to reach the title game - and because their title opponent was pre-qualified for the national championships, the Boise Nationals would go, too.

"When they told us we were going to nationals, it was like, we can't even believe we got to regionals," Lewis said.

They lost the regional title game to Carlsbad (Calif.) but Prince told the team it was the best game they played all year. The loss may be just as good as a win.

"It wasn't a matter of score," said Lewis. "It was a matter of who kept their heart in the game the whole time."

The Boise Nationals Italia joins 87 other teams at the U.S. Youth Soccer Championships in Overland Park, Kansas starting July 23.

Prince - who will leave the team to coach the U-18 Boise Nationals next season - thinks his girls are ready to show the state's first appearance at nationals is more than just good luck.

"We're all athletes, they're all athletes. They're fast, we're fast, let's go complete," he said of the attitude he wants his team to have in Kansas.

"Hopefully that stands up, and they go out there and represent Idaho the way we want them to."

The Boise Nationals are fundraising for the $30,000 trip. Contact information for the BNSC is atwww.boisenationals.com.
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