Fourth-year Wood River High School girls’ soccer coach Jenni Conrad said her Wolverines wanted to play all the way to the final day of the State 4A tournament last weekend at the Idaho Falls Soccer Complex.
But, after Thursday’s opening round 2-0 loss to eventual state runner-up Century of Pocatello (14-4-2), Wood River needed to win Friday’s loser-out game against Boise-area runner-up Kuna to stay alive in order to play one more day.
That match-up was no bargain, since Kuna had lost 5-3 to powerful Bishop Kelly in the 3rd District title game last week and then had fallen 2-1 in double overtime to Moscow on Thursday in the state opener.
Could Wood River do it, after the disappointment of going two-and-out at state in 2011? The answer was a loud “Yes”.
Wood River (12-8-0) built a 2-0 lead after 23 minutes, added a key insurance goal midway through the second half and held off Kuna 3-2 as senior goalkeeper Kiana Chapman made 9 saves. The Wolverines out-shot Kuna 13-9, 10 of those shots coming in the first half.
Junior Haley Montgomery scored two goals. The first was a footrace after a long direct kick from freshman defender Caitlyn Sfingi. The second came in close quarters during a melee in the box—with a key touch made by Grace Eagan.
Stashing away the other goal making it 2-0 was freshman Tayte Kelly. She one-timed a lovely 25-yard floater into the goal after Kuna goalkeeper Ruby Shreeve (7 of her 8 saves in the first half) strayed too far from the box in an attempt to keep the ball away from Montgomery’s full-board attack.
“After the loss to Century, we talked about wanting to be together for one more night,” said Conrad (55-21-4). “We played with so much heart and intention against Kuna.”
Conrad said, “Haley’s first goal was a momentum changer. We hadn’t been first to the ball up until then. After that, we calmed down and started connecting through balls. We had better speed than they did and our first touches were way better. I was very, very pleased.”
She and the Wolverine fans were very, very anxious after Kuna cut its deficit to 2-1 at 32 minutes on the first of two goals by senior Hailey Faulk, this one after a chip pass by Jody Lewsi. Then, early in the second half, keeper Chapman made two huge saves on Faulk and Gabby Callis. And Kuna kept applying pressure with five second-half corner kicks.
Plus, with key senior defender Maggie Williams (ankle) sidelined for state, Hailey played with a young defense of sophomores Kenya Schott, Timber Kelly, Olivia Thornton and ninth-grader Sfingi.
Fortunately for Wood River, Kuna had a defensive lapse and gave the Wolverines an indirect kick in the box at 61 minutes. Samantha Sutton took the kick on a first-touch by Miranda Gasenica—and Kuna keeper Shreeve batted the shot away to set up an Allison Gasenica corner kick.
It was a dangerous corner kick, landing right in front of the goal where three or four players had good shots at it. Eagan, a Hailey senior, almost did a full split reaching the ball and tapping it to Montgomery, who hammered it home. “It was a free-for-all,” said Eagan. “Finally Haley put it in.”
Eagan added, “We needed to keep moving the ball forward and that’s what we did, putting on a lot of pressure. I’m proud of everyone on the team. I knew we had it in us.”
Wood River nearly pulled off another win Saturday in the consolation championship game, but fell 2-1 in overtime to Preston (14-5-1). Sutton kicked home a penalty kick for the only Hailey goal of the game.
In Saturday’s championship game, Bishop Kelly of Boise (22-0-0) stretched its three-year unbeaten streak to 68 games with a 2-0 title game win over Century. It was BK’s third straight state title and fifth in six years. Great Basin Conference champ Twin Falls (18-3-0) captured third place 1-0 (4-3 penalty kicks) over Moscow.
The last time Wood River played Kuna was in the 2009 state opener at Caldwell, losing 2-1. On the same day Sandpoint upset Bishop Kelly 3-2 in overtime. That was the last Bishop Kelly loss, since the Knights finished that tournament with 7-0 and 3-0 wins over Twin Falls and Wood River, then have gone 22-0-0 the past three years.
( Final team statistics: Wood River 12-8-0 (6-2-0 home, 6-6-0 away, 8-2-0 league for #2 seed, 2nd place in GBC tournament) with 9 shutouts in 20 games. Goals scored: 70 (3.5 per game). Goals against: 28 (1.4). Individual scoring: Haley Montgomery 14, Allison Gasenica 11, Miranda Gasenica 10, Samantha Sutton 10, Lucy Brannon 8, Brigette Thomas 7, Grace Eagan 4, Tayte Kelly 4, Telar McClure 1, Timber Kelly 1.