Two bitter rivals, 80 minutes to settle things and a showcase only soccer can provide—a scoreless tie that was absolutely nerve-wracking.
What the home Hailey gallery dearly wanted on a warm October day was a fitting end to a sun-baked "Senior Day" finale for the Wood River High School girls' soccer team at South Valley Sports Complex.
They got it, thanks to K.T. Martinez's goal in the box off a Sloan Storey direct kick in stoppage time for a thrilling 1-0 Wood River victory over Century of Pocatello on Saturday.
It was the same outcome as last year's State 4A tournament consolation bracket semi-final won by Hailey 1-0 over Century at Caldwell. Wood River's 10th shutout in 14 games kept the Wolverines unbeaten in their last seven—a span in which they've outscored foes 39-2.
And they're still unbeaten in seven games at home this fall.
But how the 2010 Wolverines (11-2-1) scrapped, clawed, chased, battled to the limit and finally arrived at the same 1-0 winning score over Century (9-2-1) kept those in the big crowd on the edge of their seats.
Here was Century, one of Idaho's best girls' soccer programs this fall and for the past decade, obviously playing for a tie in the second half to stretch its unbeaten streak to 11 entering this week's state-qualifying 4A 5th District tournament.
The Diamondbacks had just swept one of Idaho's best 5A teams, cross-town rival Highland 2-1 Thursday. Substitution after substitution to kill the clock in the final 10 minutes attested to coach Jamshid Roomiany's strategy to leave Hailey with a scoreless tie.
In contrast, Wood River played with intensity and a sense of desperation in an attempt to break a 0-0 tie in the final moments of the non-conference clash and keep its hopes alive to earn one more home game in this week's 4A Fourth District meet.
"It was a tough, physical game," said junior midfielder Martinez. "Every time we went to a ball, one of the Century players was there."
Coach Jenni Conrad said, "I knew we were the better team. We played well in the first half, but the girls played so beautifully in the second half—all the way to the final whistle—that it showed their determination. They wanted it."
Sloan Storey, Wood River's free kick specialist and midfield organizer along with fellow junior Martinez, said, "We definitely proved we can fight to the end—and that every second counts."
It was an 80-minute battle and more, as the Century delay tactics stretched the game into stoppage time and kept everybody on pins and needles.
And it was the sixth 1-0 verdict in the last 13 games played between the two teams, four of them won by Wood River. The eight-year, 19-game series still favors 2003 and 2005-06 State 4A champion Century 10-7-2, but the Wolverines have won four of the last six meetings.
It was close from the get-go.
Senior goalkeeper Madison Gove, who beat Century 5-4 in last year's state tournament penalty kick shootout, showed she was ready for the challenge early in the first half by making two point-blank saves on a Diamondbacks attack after a Hailey foul at midfield.
Gove (5 saves) earned the game's "Most Valuable Player" t-shirt from coach Conrad.
The first half was fiercely fought, Wood River owning a 5-4 edge in shots and a 3-0 advantage in corner kicks. Storey drilled three good chances at Century sophomore goalkeeper Anastasia Wesen (6 saves). Martinez launched a blast that sailed over the crossbar.
Fouls were the story in the first half, Wood River getting called 10 times to just two for Century. That seemed unfair to chief Wolverine cheerleader Chet Olson ("can we get a call?" he wailed as the half ended).
Another story of the first half was the Century defense led by senior Jenika Johnson throwing a collar around senior striker and all-time WRHS leading scorer Tanner Dredge. Dredge didn't have a good shot.
That changed after halftime. Dredge came out of the "Senior Night" halftime celebration like she was shot out of a cannon. She peppered Century keeper Wesen with three legitimate chances in the first 14 minutes—the best one with her left foot, sailing just high.
Wood River out-shot Century 8-2 after half. Seeing the leadership of more experienced players like Storey, Martinez, Taylor Hayes and Maddie Bates, the younger starters Erin Murphy, Maggie Williams and Haley Montgomery followed along and never stopping running and pursuing.
Senior Halsey Pierce contributed some solid minutes on the wing. In came junior Nicole Roos off the bench midway through the second half to pump off two challenging shots.
Meanwhile, the wear-and-tear affected two senior titans, both wearing #13 jerseys, Dredge of Wood River and defender Johnson of Century.
Johnson tried desperately not to show it as Wood River ramped up the late pressure, but she was visibly slowed. Dredge stepped in a hole, rolled her ankle and seemed unable to continue. She waved off the referee and stayed on the field, gingerly testing the ankle.
With minutes slipping away, Wood River generated one final attack. Dredge sprang to life as she saw the ball come her way. She chased the ball the best she could, lost her limp with adrenaline and somehow ended up with a shot that thoroughly inspired her teammates.
The Wolverines flooded the Century zone with pressure. "That last push we made showed how much we wanted this game," said coach Conrad. "It got me so emotional. It's the first time I've cried as a coach."
Storey explained, "One of our strategies was moving me up to give us three forwards and leaving three on defense. Everybody pursued every ball."
One of those players chasing balls down in the D'Backs zone was freshman Haley Montgomery. She ran with great momentum and ended up on the right side of the field where Century's Johnson fouled her. Storey lined up the direct kick, probably 30 to 35 yards away.
Storey lofted a lovely ball that dropped into the crowded box, soared just an inch over the header attempt of Taylor Hayes and finally deflected off of Martinez's thigh and then over the goal line.
There, behind the goal line, Century keeper Wesen caught it and tried to jump back out in front of the line to make it a save. Martinez was having none of it. She waved frantically, pointing into the goal to reinforce where the ball had landed. The center referee rushed into the crowd and signaled the play as a goal.
Martinez said afterward, "I hit the ball with my thigh and she (Wesen) caught it this far behind the line....." and she did a little hop step that showed a distance of about three feet.
Then, the final whistle blew causing a Wood River celebration that ran concurrently with a tirade thrown along the sideline by Century coach Roomiany. He ranted about everything from the extra minutes tacked on by the center referee, to the call made on Martinez's game-winning goal, to the fact that someone might have a different opinion than he.
Roomiany also vowed never to play Wood River again, which would be a shame considering the competitiveness and sportsmanship shown by players from both teams in Saturday's exciting clash.
Ironically, the call on the Martinez goal was the opposite of another last-second call that went against the Wolverines in a 1-0 home loss to Century Oct. 12, 2006 on the same field and at the same end of the pitch.
Wood River carried a 16-0-1 record into that Great Basin Conference championship game four years ago, but they ended up being out-shot by Century 17-7. One of the best Wolverine players, Sam Johnson, suffered a broken collarbone on a hard uncalled foul earlier in the second half of a scoreless game, and Century finally scored for a 1-0 lead.
On the final play of the game, Wood River's Aimee Evans lined up a 35-yard free kick from about the same spot that Sloan Storey took her direct kick last Saturday. It floated into the hands of Century senior goalkeeper Megan Sorenson, who clearly caught it behind the goal line and jumped back out with the ball in hand.
Wood River argued in vain that the goal should have been allowed, forcing an overtime since it was a state tournament seeding game. The result, a 1-0 Wolverine loss, sent Wood River up against Bishop Kelly of Boise in the opening round of the State 4A tournament in Boise. Bishop Kelly won 3-0.
Meanwhile, Century earned an easier draw at state and beat Skyview of Nampa 2-1 in its first game en route to the state championship 1-0 over Hillcrest. It was Century's third state title in four years—and the last time the Diamondbacks have won the state title.
GBC tournament begins
Despite all their best efforts against Century, the Wood River girls will have to settle for the second seed in the Great Basin Conference tournament because the Wolverines lost a tie-breaking coin flip to Twin Falls on Monday afternoon.
Wood River plays Saturday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. at Sunway Sports Complex in Twin Falls against the winner of Thursday's first-round game matching the third seed, probably Burley (4-11-0, 4-5-0), and sixth-seeded Minico (1-13-1, 0-8-1).
Top-seeded Twin Falls (12-2-0, 8-1-0 before Tuesday's finale at Canyon Ridge) will also play for the first time Saturday at 12 noon on its home Sunway field, in all likelihood against the winner of Thursday's Canyon Ridge and Jerome game.
By winning the coin flip and presumably beating Canyon Ridge Tuesday, Twin Falls earned the right to host Wood River in the probable GBC championship game Thursday, Oct. 14 at Sunway. Wood River has captured six consecutive GBC tournament titles.
The top two GBC teams after the Oct. 7-16 single elimination consolation bracket tournament automatically advance to the State 4A tournament Oct. 21-23 at Post Falls High School in northern Idaho.
Wood River has only one chance to gain another home game this season, that by losing to Twin Falls in the Oct. 14 championship game and hosting the state-qualifying second-place game Oct. 16 in Hailey.
The GBC champion will open up at state against the Idaho Falls-area winner, probably Hillcrest (14-0-0), while the GBC runner-up has drawn the Boise-area winner, most likely Bishop Kelly of Boise (15-0-0). Sandpoint won last year's title over Kuna.
Boys fall 4-1 at Century, play next on Saturday
The Wood River boys' soccer team (7-6-1, 6-3-1 league) lost 4-1 to Century at Pocatello last Saturday and plays next on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. in the GBC tournament at Sunway Sports Complex in Twin Falls.
Junior Jeffrey Espejo (penalty kick) scored the Wood River goal as coach Luis Monjaras gave his starters plenty of rest anticipating the tough GBC tests coming up. Derrick Foulkrod, Greg Roberts, Kyle Kener and Josh Goodwin scored goal for Century (8-4-2).
Three-time defending league champion Jerome (13-1-3, 7-1-2) is the top seed and Wood River is second. The 3-4-5 seeds depended on the outcome of Tuesday's regular-season finales between Burley (7-2-6, 2-1-6) and Minico (7-7-1, 3-5-1), and Twin Falls (5-5-4, 3-4-2) against Canyon Ridge (2-11-2, 0-7-2).