Ten years from now, they'll remember two things about Wood River High School's 4-3 girls' soccer triumph over host Twin Falls in the Oct. 14 championship game of the Great Basin Conference tournament.
It was Wood River's seventh consecutive GBC championship—but certainly the first the Wolverines have won away from home and by playing shorthanded much of the game.
One unforgettable moment was senior goalkeeper Madison Gove's desperation tackle on Twin Falls striker Claire Goss in the box to prevent a certain second-half goal—a play that red-carded Gove and made Wood River compete a player-down for the final 36 minutes.
Gove regretted her unsportsmanlike act that resulted in her ejection for the rest of Thursday's game and Wood River's first game at the upcoming state tournament. But, in a way, it symbolized her team's aggressive approach to the game and keeping its title.
The second surefire memory about the thrilling rubber clash between the two GBC titans is something even Wood River wasn't aware of until coach Jenni Conrad gathered her happy players in a celebratory huddle after the game played at Sunway Soccer Complex.
Conrad said to the team, "That's what I'm talking about! It's amazing what you did, for playing a man down the whole second half." Her comment was met with dead silence all around. Many of the players didn't quite understand the predicament they were in. A few girls replied, "We were?"
Afterward, the coach wasn't too surprised that many of her players including the younger starters were a bit clueless. She said, "They were so into the game and trying to figure out what they needed to do next.
"What Madison did was unfortunate, a heat-of-the-moment thing. We all make mistakes. We just move on and try to learn from them. We played a very smart game, except for the red card. Many of our players just didn't understand the ramifications of what had just happened to Madison."
One who did was senior striker Tanner Dredge, the team's all-time leading scorer (114 goals) who played perhaps her best all-around game in the most demanding situation.
Not only did Dredge score the first two Wood River goals and on her first two shots to erase an early 1-0 Twin Falls lead, she fought off the effects of a hamstring injury to log important second-half minutes in the midfield. Dredge won ball after ball and then fed the flank up to talented freshman runner Haley Montgomery.
"We lost to Twin Falls earlier this season on this field," said Dredge. "We didn't want to lose to them again."
Another player who realized Wood River's dilemma was junior defender Lucy Paisley. She stepped up her efforts incredibly after Gove's ejection and almost dared the Twin Falls offense to pass the ball in her direction. Time after time, she booted it out of harm's way.
"We definitely picked it up in the second half. The red card and losing Madison worried us, but the whole team came together. We have all the faith in (back-up keeper) Cheyenne Swanson and she did well. It was one of our best games."
Coach Conrad added about her back line of Paisley, Maggie Williams, Maddie Bates and Taylor Hayes, "Twin Falls had a hard time exploiting our defense. We play very compactly in the back. A big part of our game is physicality and athleticism. Technically and tactically we are real strong.
"Our defense was really unstoppable and we dug deep."
Timely goals in Twin
Wood River realized top-seeded Twin Falls was fast, physical and dangerous on offense. The Wolverines countered all those Bruins assets in building a 3-1 halftime lead.
"By the end of the first half we were winning most of the 50-50 balls. We're really fit and that's what it takes. We played to and through the ball," said Conrad about her team's style.
Five minutes into the game, junior McKenzie Johnson crossed pass to senior Allie Webb who beat Gove (5 saves) for a 1-0 Bruins lead. Wood River shrugged off the goal, kept working the ball on the ground and had junior Sloan Storey pump off several shots.
Twin Falls was whistled for many offsides because of its strategy of feeding the ball to its forwards on long lead passes. After one offsides call, Taylor Hayes fired a free kick downfield that McKenna Chase gathered and dropped to Dredge, who pulled the trigger.
After taking a few minutes on the sideline to wrap her right hamstring, Dredge returned and found a seam for another 20-yard goal and 2-1 Wolverine lead. It was her 28th goal. Paisley started the scoring play at the back and Montgomery earned the assist.
Senior Ellen Davis was another player who had one of her best games, and she set up the third Hailey goal at 39 minutes on a cross pass that Nicole Roos touched over to Storey. Storey drilled her 11th goal to give Wood River a two-goal cushion.
Gove's tackle and ejection early in the second half gave Twin Falls a penalty kick, which Claire Goss missed against new keeper Swanson (4 saves). Instead of cutting Wood River's lead to 3-2, the score stayed 3-1. About the miss, Conrad said, "That could have been a turning point. It would have fired up Twin Falls."
Instead, Wood River's defense dominated. "We put tremendous pressure on the ball," said Conrad. Twin Falls didn't manage its first shot of the half until 26 minutes had expired.
Meanwhile, Montgomery's constant solo runs down the left flank caused problems for the Bruins' defense. On one occasion, Twin Falls fouled Montgomery and the ball went out-of-bounds for Wood River's only corner kick of the half.
Storey lined it up and lifted a beautiful ball into the box that junior K.T. Martinez headed home for a 4-1 lead at the 16-minute mark. It was one of the season's prettiest goals. Martinez (14 goals) has scored in six of the last seven games.
Twin Falls soph Goss scored two goals in an eight-minute span making it 4-3, but Wood River fought on with resolve and celebrated at the whistle.
Girls open with Hillcrest
Wood River (13-2-1) and 6th District champion Hillcrest of Idaho Falls (16-0-0) clash Thursday, Oct. 21 at 11 a.m. at Lake City High in a first-round game of the eight-team State 4A tourney. It is Wood River's 16th straight state tournament trip.
Conrad said, "We stayed focused all the way to the end of the game against Twin Falls. We'll keep trying to do that." Added Paisley, "We're real excited about going to state."
Wood River last played Hillcrest at home during last fall's season, Dredge scoring a hat trick in a 5-1 win. The Wolverines hold a 4-2-2 edge in the eight-game series since 1996—beating Hillcrest 4-1 and 4-2 at state in 2004-05, and falling to Hillcrest 2-1 at state in 2007.
Unlike the boys' tournament, all eight teams in the 4A girls' meet are returning from last October but there is just one repeat first-round match-up. That is 5th District champ Century of Pocatello (15-2-1) vs. Skyview of Nampa (14-5-1).
At last year's state tournament in Caldwell, Hillcrest won its first-round game 2-1 in overtime over Twin Falls and then lost big time to Sandpoint 6-1 and Skyview for third place 5-1.
Sandpoint (13-4-2) used its shocking 3-2 first-round overtime victory over two-time defending champion Bishop Kelly as a springboard to win its fifth state championsnhip by a 7-2 score over runner-up Kuna (17-5-2) last year. Skyview was third. Bishop Kelly took consolation 3-0 over Wood River.
Other first-round match-ups Thursday are Sandpoint (7-6-5) vs. Kuna (14-4-1) at 11 a.m. in a rematch of last year's title game; Bishop Kelly (19-0-0, 102-5 goals-against) vs. Twin Falls (15-3-0) at 2 p.m., and Century vs. Skyview, also at 2 p.m.
Bishop Kelly dominated its district tournament, outscoring three opponents 19-1 including the 4-1 title game over Kuna.