In 2014 the Idaho State women’s soccer team was one goal away from winning the Big Sky Conference title. The following year, the Bengals failed to win a conference game. This year the Bengals are 1-2 after losing their home opener Sunday to Boise State.
“The rearview mirror is smaller than the windshield,” said senior midfielder Tristen Spooner said. “We keep looking forward, we are not going to look back.”
This year, the goal is to make the conference tournament, and maybe like they almost did in 2014 as a five seed, win it.
“We want the degree and the ring,” said senior midfielder Jennifer McCaw, who is one of six seniors on this year’s team.
Idaho State has failed to make it back to the six-team conference tournament since 2014 and missed the tournament by four points a season ago by dropping its last three matches of the year and finishing in eighth place.
“Fifteen was a really, really rough year,” said head coach Allison Gibson prior to the season opener against Salt Lake Community College. “One win season, not much more you can say about that… 2016 we regrouped really, really well… The expectations are much higher this year.”
Despite the loss of two of last year’s team captains in Kat Roberts and Cassidy Kaumeyer, both of which had strong ties to last year’s defensive success, the strength on the 2017 team will still be the back line.
Among other key losses from last year are Nikki Musto, who was tied with Kaumeyer for most starts by a midfielder, and seniors Kortney McBride and Ka’imi Morreira.
“Defense wins games, every team knows that,” Tristan Spooner said. “We start from the back to the front. That’s in everything, communication, starting the ball, everything.”
Most of this years’ experience starts in the back, beginning with senior goalkeeper, Shawna Hennings, who teammates say has improved from a season ago.
“Shauna is experienced beyond belief,” Spooner said. “If you watch her play, she proves herself time and time again. Her experience and being dedicated to this team is going to be part of our success this season.”
Hennings started 19 games last season, recording three clean-sheets and a .707 save percentage. The Anaheim native tallied 82 saves last season and faced a season-high 26 shots on goal against Sam Houston State last season, saving all 26.
The Bengals will work with youth up top as two freshmen, Corinne Sanderson and Kathryn Leachman will look to be in the mix, while sophomore and last year’s leading goal scorer Michaela Didericksen and teammate Brooke Kortekaas return off their freshmen campaigns. Didericksen and Kortekaas both appeared in 20 games last season and scored a combined nine goals.
“They don’t know any better so they are just going to get out there and play,” Gibson said on her young forwards. “The whole system is designed to go through them and have them score goals.”
The forward with the most experience this season is senior Alma Rangel, who is set to have surgery on a blown ACL and is expected to miss the season.
This year’s Idaho State soccer schedule features two road games against national powerhouses.
The Bengals traveled to Michigan August 20 where the team lost 4-0. Idaho State will travel to Oregon September 17.
“With Oregon and Michigan, we are looking for them to show us where we are weak,” Gibson said. “Everything we do in non-conference prepares us for conference.”
The Bengals are in the midst of a four-game home stand as Idaho State hosted Boise State last Sunday, will host Utah State and UTEP over this weekend with Hawaii after that.