Bronco SportsSports & Rec

Women’s soccer battles through the Mountain West tournament to earn a spot in the championship game

Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter

The Boise State women’s soccer team advanced to the finals of the Mountain West Conference (MWC) tournament after beating the No. 3 seed San Diego State University (SDSU) 1-0 in the first round and beating the No. 2 seed Fresno State in a shootout in the semifinals. 

The No. 6 seed Boise State will now face the No. 1 seed New Mexico on Saturday, Nov. 6 to battle for the MWC title. This is the first time a No. 6 seed team has made it to the MW championship title.

The matchup between the Bulldogs from Fresno State and the Broncos ended in a penalty shootout. Freshman midfielder Michaela Justiniani brought it home after scoring the final penalty kick needed for Boise State to win. 

The beginning of the match was heavily controlled by the Broncos. In the 17th minute, Fresno State’s Kaelyn Miller scored off a powerful shot. 

Boise State responded in the 28th minute as fifth-year forward Aubree Chatterton dribbled to the right side of the box and delivered a curving ball over the goalkeeper’s head and into the net. 

The remainder of the match consisted of back and forth shots that could’ve decided the game. However, both teams continued to play aggressively, resulting in double overtime which led to a penalty shootout. 

In the best-of-five shootouts, both teams put balls past the keeper. As a goalkeeper, Smith took the second penalty attempt which she sank. 

On the Bulldog’s sixth attempt Smith blocked the shot, sending Bronco Nation into a roar. 

Justiniani stepped up for the Broncos on their sixth attempt. The freshman looked calm as she kicked the ball past the keeper to seal the deal for Boise State. 

“That was a war of attrition out there,” said head coach Jim Thomas. “I’m proud of these girls and the staff for what they’ve gone through to get to this point. I can’t help but feel for Fresno State. What a worthy opponent, a fantastic team. It was a great game filled with everything. It’s a tough way to end it for anybody, on penalty kicks.”

To get to the semifinal round, Boise State upset SDSU, keeping them scoreless. The Broncos battled the Aztecs till the final minute of the intense matchup. Both teams were aggressive on and off the field, resulting in one red card given to an Aztec and four yellow cards given to the Broncos. 

For the remainder of the match, SDSU was allowed 10 players on the field. 

In the early stage of the game, the Broncos fired four shots on goal. Junior midfielder Morgan Stone attempted to score in the 23rd minute, but the ball was deflected by SDSU’s goalkeeper. However, sophomore midfielder Morgan Miles was in the right position to control the ball and send it into the back of the net. 

“I believe that we’ve been so prepared for this moment with what we’ve faced this season,” Thomas said. “What you need when the game matters the most is that your big players step up. You look at their best players and they were really good, and our best players were really good as well.”

The Broncos defended their territory at Boas Soccer Complex, prohibiting the Aztecs to score throughout the remainder of the match. 

Senior goalkeeper Sydney Smith made a total of five saves during the match to record her 18th career clean sheet. 

“Sydney is one of the best players of all time,” Thomas said. “There’s so much emotion out there, and you need cool, calm and collected people. Sydney is about as calm as they get. To make the plays like she did there at the end was really special. I’m happy for her, she deserves the record.”

Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter
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