The Boise State women’s club soccer team competed in the NIRSA Soccer Championship series for the first time in program history in Round Rock, Texas, from Nov. 17-19.
The NIRSA is the national league for club sports, including club soccer, and has more than 4,500 members. Their league is broken into six regions, with each region hosting a regional tournament.
Each regional championship winner, along with two of the top performing teams in their region, will receive an automatic bid for the National Tournament. The National Tournament also holds an “at-large” bid raffle for six teams across the country. This allows any team to randomly be selected to receive a bid for the tournament.
The Broncos were one of those six teams selected.
The team entered a raffle for the championship earlier this season and received the automatic bid, earning them an automatic pass to the championships.
“I put us into a lottery drawing to qualify for Nationals, and we actually got drawn to go,” said club president Rylie Mackie. “That’s why we declined going to regionals and qualify for nationals since we just won the lottery. I was like ‘I’m gonna take this lottery drawing, and we are all going to go.’”
While the team would love to win the National Championships, they will focus on having the most fun while there.
Throughout the season, the team has emphasized the importance of finding a balance between competition and fun.
“Although we decided not to compete in regionals because we already received a bid to nationals, we did not want to go because it was held over Halloweekend,” Wright said. “We could have done it, but ultimately we decided not to.”
Because the team wants to provide flexibility to their players throughout the season to both play the sport they love and have a social life, the team opted out of joining a conference in their region.
If the team were to join a conference, they would be required to play a set amount of games throughout the season.
“We could have joined the Western Conference, but we decided not to,” Wright said. “If we did, there would be set games we would have to play and might miss other events we want to go to like football games. So we didn’t really want to do that.”
This mentality set to complement each player’s college experience has helped other students gain interest in the club over the past few years.
The team had around 15 players when Mackie and Wright joined. This year, the team started with 49 players and are currently sitting at 35 players, according to Mackie and Campus Recreation Associate Director Jared Cox.
Their original starting size had the team sit at 11 more players than Boise State’s varsity women’s soccer team (38 players) and 20 more players than the average size for a collegiate soccer team (29 players), according to Scholarship Stats.
The Campus Recreation office was shocked with how many players had signed up at the beginning of the year.
“I am in charge of ordering bags, socks and shorts for all the new members, and I remember going to the (Campus Recreation office) and asking them to order 50 of each for us,” Mackie said. “At first they were like, ‘Are you serious?’ and I had to tell them yes.”
No matter how the team performs during their first-ever championship appearance, Mackie knows she along her team will have a great time.
“We’re just super excited,” Mackie said. “I don’t know what to expect. I don’t think the team knows what to expect. No one on the team has even been to Texas, so we are all just excited.”