Idaho started Thursday with only one U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional champion in state history.
It ended the day with three.
Idaho Rush’s U-16 and U-19 girls squads added to the count, storming their way to club soccer titles for the 13-state region covering the western part of the United States. They join the 2015 U-19 Nova-Nationals girls as the only Far West champions in Idaho history.
The victories punched both Rush club’s tickets to the U.S. Youth Soccer national championships July 17-23 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
The Rush U-16 girls are headed to nationals for the second straight year after making the semifinals last summer. Rush’s U-19 squad declined the invite to nationals, as its team is loaded with recent high school graduates heading off to college.
“This is huge,” Idaho Rush U-19 goalkeeper Isabella Brown said. “Not many teams have done it. It’s an honor.”
IDAHO RUSH U-16 GETS ELUSIVE FAR WEST TITLE
Rush’s U-16 club suffered a heartbreaking loss in last year’s regional championship, conceding a game-winning goal in the final minute of overtime. But Rush got a bit of payback Thursday with a 1-0 victory over the Utah Surf at the Simplot Sports Complex.
Idaho created the vast majority of chances, putting eight shots on goal to Utah’s four. But neither team could break through until the 56th minute, when Idaho’s Isabelle Wright lifted a 30-yard free kick into the box.
Marisol Stosich and Maizy Kluksdal both rose for the ball alongside a Utah defender. Under pressure to keep both away from the ball, she instead headed it into the back of her own net for the decisive own goal.
“They’re probably disappointed on the own goal,” Rush U-16 coach Oliver Frick said. “But we had clear chances before that we should have scored. Sometimes, you need a bit of luck, and it swung our way.”
Idaho Rush’s Kunie Hurai fires a shot against the Utah Surf in the U-16 girls championship at the U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regionals on Thursday at the Simplot Sports Complex in Boise. Darin Oswald [email protected]
The win also made up for a 1-0 loss to Hawaii during group play to start the tournament. That was the only goal Idaho surrendered as it finished the week outsourcing opponents 16-1 in six games.
Luck or no luck, the Far West title continues the record-setting trail Rush’s U-16 girls have blazed for the club. No Idaho Rush boys or girls team had won a regional quarterfinal game until Rush’s run to the finals as U-15s last year. It became just the third team from Idaho to make the national semifinals last summer. And Thursday’s win made them just the second Far West champ in state history.
“This has definitely been a dream for a really long time,” Rush midfielder/forward Kunie Hirai said. “We’ve been working and putting everything into this. This has always been the goal. It just means a lot to be able to represent Idaho and our younger teams.”
Idaho Rush goalkeeper Isabella Brown stops penalty kick in a shootout against Utah County SC in the U-19 championship at the U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regionals on Thursday at the Simplot Sports Complex in Boise. Darin Oswald [email protected]
IDAHO RUSH U-19 CROWNED IN PENALTY KICKS
Not content to add just one prestigious title to its trophy shelf, Idaho Rush added another Thursday afternoon when its U-19 girls edged Utah County SC 4-3 in penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw.
And it did it while playing up an age group without a single incoming college sophomore on the roster. Idaho fielded all recent high school graduates or younger.
Goalkeeper Isabella Brown played up two age groups at Far West, pressed into duty when Rush’s starting goalkeeper, Sophie Hills, departed for the University of Portland. But the incoming junior at Owyhee High rode to the rescue when Idaho needed her most.
Trailing in the fourth round of penalty kicks, she dove to her left and stonewalled Utah’s Marleigh Leister. Utah’s Mauri Ashman then sent the final kick wide right, allowing successful spot kicks from Idaho’s Jaylene Womack, Leah Barnes, Samantha Alis and Katherine Sand to propel Rush to a regional crown.
“She was phenomenal this week for us,” Rush U-19 coach Liz Ruiz said of Brown. “She obviously won that, big time, for us just now.”
Idaho Rush’s Rosemary Rubio controls the ball at midfield Thursday in front of Utah County SC’s Audrey Jones in the U-19 girls U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional championship game Thursday at the Simplot Sports Complex in Boise. Darin Oswald [email protected]
Rush looked to run away with its second title of the day Thursday. Sophie Schmautz put Idaho on the board in the 13th minute with a laser from 20 yards. Womack then swiped a lazy back pass and made it 2-0 Idaho in the 18th minute.
Utah clawed its way back into the game, though. Stephanie Roper scored just before halftime, Nicole Lewis tied the game in the 65th minute and the field titled Utah’s for the next hour, through the rest of regulation and overtime.
But Brown and Rush weathered the storm to get to penalty kicks, where they made Idaho history for the second time Thursday.
“It felt like it was the longest game of my life,” Ruiz said. “I’ve obviously played in big-time games, but I’ve not really coached in them. Honestly, that’s one that I’m going to remember for a really, really long time.
“… Once they scored the second one, it wasn’t tactics at that point. It was more of a heart thing. They battled, battled, battled. And they deserve it.”
This story was originally published June 29, 2023, 5:17 PM.
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Michael Lycklama has covered Idaho high school sports since 2007. He’s won national awards for his work uncovering the stories of the Treasure Valley’s best athletes and investigating behind-the-scenes trends. If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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