Overall Record: 3-14-1
Big Sky Record: 2-7-1
Place in Big Sky: 11th
With its season hanging in the balance in early October, the Idaho State women’s soccer team traveled to Southern Utah and Sacramento State for a crucial two-game road trip.
After going 1-8 during non-conference play, the Bengals had just won two out of their last three games and were sitting with a 2-2 conference record as hopes of a conference tournament appearance remained a realistic possibility.
But then adversity hit, a whistle blew and Idaho State’s senior captain was shown a red card.
“It really sucked,” said Jen McCaw, who received her red card in the game’s 33rd minute. “You know that you only have however many games and to take that from you for something that I feel like I didn’t deserve was pretty hard. I think that got to me a little bit mentally.”
McCaw’s red card marked the second ejection handed to a starting Idaho State center back, the first being given to Lauren McGahie in the 16th minute, forcing the team to play the rest of the game with nine players and the ensuing game with it senior leader watching from the sideline, for what head coach Allison Gibson referred to as a bogus call.
The Thunderbirds scored twice in the second half and took home a 2-1 victory, sending ISU to California where the team quickly began to see its season unravel.
“It was probably the defining moment of our season. Jen is the epitome of this team,” Gibson said. “…Knowing what she had given to this program, not being able to see her go out on top was probably one of the hardest things for me as a coach.”
Without two of its starting defenders, Idaho State gave up a season-high six goals to Sacramento State and lost four out of its last five games of the season and missed the conference tournament for the third consecutive year.
“I hate losing,” Gibson said. “It’s failure. Regardless of how you want to sugarcoat it and say how we still have character and all these things, when you lose three years in a row, you can only come up with so many ways to sugarcoat it. I’m very honest with these guys and it sucks and the bottom line is its time to win. We have to get it done.”
Gibson said that the team’s youth and lack of maturity contributed to the late season tumble. Idaho State graduates five seniors this season, including McCaw and starting goalkeeper Shawna Hennings, but will return most of its frontline next season, including Makena Bambei, who was selected Second Team All-Big Sky as a sophomore.
“I think we were almost there,” Bambei said. “We just had a couple unfortunate things happen and that altered the course that we wanted to take.”
Positives from the season include the tough non-conference schedule, which featured Michigan, Oregon and Utah Valley, who played Stanford in the NCAA tournament. Idaho State beat Utah Valley in an exhibition game before the season, 2-1.
Idaho State was eliminated from the conference tournament with a week left in the regular-season, meaning the team had to lace up their cleats and strap on their shin guards with nothing but pride to play for.
“After that [Eastern game,] I try to look at why I play soccer,” McCaw said. “If a championship is out of the question, you play it because you love to play soccer. You play it for your friends, you play it for your family.”
The Bengals lost to Idaho and drew against Weber State, but the way the team practiced caught the attention of the parents of some incoming recruits, according to Gibson.
“Watching our team play that last game, you never would have imagined that was the last place team in the conference,” Gibson said. “What I try to teach these players, is the results don’t always come in your favor, but if you stay with the system and you keep working hard and do what you’re supposed to do, the tides to change and they do go in your favor at some point.”