While the nation was enamored with the US Women’s National Team fighting their way to a World Cup trophy this summer, the Boise State soccer team was busy gearing up for a battle of their own. After a frustrating end to their 2018 season in which San Jose State took the chance of a Mountain West (MW) crown right out from underneath the Broncos in a 4-3 penalty kick shootout, the team started their summer training with fire in their eyes.
“We need to show people how good we are,” said senior midfielder McKenna Kynett. “We’re all very anxious to start and show people that we’re not just going to be those girls that tie one year and fall off; Boise State is actually going to keep progressing as female soccer players.”
Boise State (13-4-3, 7-2-2 MW) closed out 2018 with its first regular-season conference title in program history. But they shared that title with Wyoming and New Mexico, thanks to a tie and a loss in their last two regular season matches. The team set several program records, including regular season wins (13), single-season shutouts (10) and longest unbeaten streak (10).
“Literally everything was going so well for us, and I think we just got caught up and our bodies got caught up. We definitely didn’t put (San Jose) away like we should have,” Kynett said. “Everyone came back in June; we’ve been here for two months training, getting ready for this. We are not going to let that happen again.”
Just as the USWNT team approached the World Cup with a “do or die” mentality, so will the Broncos face each opponent with last season’s unsatisfying conclusion in the forefront of their minds.
“We were definitely left with a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouth after last season… it was record breaking on so many levels for our program. But we’re still not satisfied with that,” said senior forward Kristina Serres. “Watching the US team take it all and watching them feel like, ‘We’re not satisfied. Yeah, we won the World Cup last time. But if we don’t win this time it’s a disappointment.’ That’s the mentality that we have going into it. It’s an all or nothing type of year.”
The Broncos are well aware of the grit coming from every angle in the MW. According to Kynett, “anyone can beat anyone on any given day.” While San Jose is clearly on their radar, the team is keeping in mind that they must approach each game with the same determination and confidence.
“(Last year) we came into it with a mentality that wasn’t quite ‘we are the alpha,’ it was a little bit more like we were ‘coming of age’ as the alpha team in the conference,” said head coach Jim Thomas. “Now we’re going to go through this process with a very clear goal in mind and a very clear perception of ourselves… As a coach, it became apparent throughout that event and that season that we really are the best team that’s in this Mountain West, and we should be expecting victories in those games, not hoping for them.”
Seven seniors are returning for the Broncos, including forward Raimee Sherle, who was named to the 2019 MAC Hermann Trophy Watchlist. Last season Sherle led the Broncos in goals scored (20), which tied for the No. 1 spot in the NCAA for 2018. This season also returns 2018 Mountain West All-Newcomer Team member Macie Nelson and 2018 All-MW Second Team member Aubree Chatterton.
“I can honestly say we’ve never looked better than where we are now. We’ve never been this fit, this strong, this dialed in,” Kynett said.
While it is clear that the Broncos have unfinished business to attend to, their personal triumphs are not being overlooked. Thomas hopes that, no matter the result, his team will be able to reflect on this season with pride.
“If we win being something we’re not, I know this group like the back of my hand; they’re not gonna be happy with that. They’re gonna want to do it all again,” Thomas said. “Looking back to that group last year, while they were disappointed that they didn’t get the ultimate goal, they were so proud of what they had achieved and who they were by the end of it. The winning and losing part was a little smaller than the fact that we had done it our way and we were proud of ourselves for the way we went about it. So I want the same for this group.”
This October, Boise State will be hosting the MW tournament for the first time in program history. As a group that thrives in front of their much-appreciated Boise fanbase —the team went 6-2-1 at home in 2018 — the Broncos are pleased to welcome their opponents. With a MW tournament win, the Broncos would be looking at a program-first automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“All of us have had that taste of what it’s like to be right there and to literally be able to see it and to feel it and taste it. Now we know what we want and we know what we have to do to get it, so we’re not holding back for anything,” Serres said. “Last year, (San Jose) got to hold up the trophy in front of their home crowd. This year, it’s our turn.”
The Broncos will take on Eastern Washington for their first home game on Sunday, Aug. 25 at 1:00 p.m. at the BOAS Soccer Complex.