Is this the year for a state prep soccer championship?
Forty-eight Idaho teams have that question foremost in the minds of players, coaches and fans this week preparing for the Idaho High School Activities Association's 5A, 4A and 3A boys' and girls' competitions in the Boise area.
The Community School of Sun Valley, for the first time since 2007, is sending both its boys' and girls' teams to the State 3A tournament at Vallivue High School in Caldwell.
Coach Richard Whitelaw's Cutthroat boys (10-4-2) debut the eight-team tournament Thursday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. against 3rd District king Payette—a 2-0 winner over Fruitland in its district championship game last week.
Making the school's 11th consecutive trip to the state girls' tournament are coach Kelly Feldman's Cutthroat girls (13-4-1), winners of their High Desert Soccer Conference tourney for a third straight year. The Cutthroats clash with Kellogg (9-2-3) Thursday at 11 a.m.
The Cutthroat boys have won four state championships—1976, 1986, 1992 and 1999, along with third-place trophies in 2001 and 2002 and consolation championships in 2006 and 2007. Top state placing for the Cutthroat girls was third place in 2003, although Feldman's teams have won the last two State 3A consolation titles.
Wide open boys' field
Only two teams, 2009 winner Gooding and last year's runner-up Bonners Ferry, are returning to state from 2010. The field is wide open—indeed, eight different teams have won a State 3A title since Payette took back-to-back crowns in 2001-02.
In his 20th season, Whitelaw (218-101-32 including 21-13 state) is likely the senior member of this weekend's 3A coaching fraternity. He's got a long memory about Payette, a team that Cutthroat boys haven't played at state in nine years.
Payette gave the Cutthroats their only losses in both 2001 and 2002. The Pirates snapped a 19-game Cutthroat win streak with a 3-2 first-round state win in 2001. Payette also downed the Cutthroats 3-2 in a double overtime semi-final in 2002. In each meet, Whitelaw's teams went on to earn third place.
Although he has eight seniors, Whitelaw is taking the Cutthroats to state for the first time in four years. It's a strong defensive team, yielding only 14 goals in 16 games. The squad is unbeaten in six road games, another sign of tough defense.
In the top bracket Thursday at 11 a.m. are 2006 champ Teton (12-3-0) vs. Fruitland and High Desert Soccer Conference winner Filer (7-7-4) vs. 2007 state champion Bonners Ferry (7-9-1). In the bottom bracket for the 2 p.m. games are Payette vs. Community School, and Snake River vs. Gooding (9-3-3).
Gooding defeated the Cuttheroats 1-0 in Friday's HDSC second-place game at Elkhorn's Browning Field. "Man of the Match" was Tim Kanellitsas, and goalkeeper Tom Crosby made seven saves for the game.
Girls seek first state title
There will be a new State 3A girls' champion, since both 2010 state winner Snake River and last year's runner-up Payette failed to qualify for state. Indeed, only the Community School, third-place Timberlake and 2007 state champ Teton of Driggs (13-1-2) are returning.
Watch out for the McCall-Donnelly Vandals, though. McCall (14-4-1) is the wild card entry—having lost to Weiser 4-3 in the district championship game last week, followed by 2-0 and 6-0 Vandal state play-in wins over Fruitland and Buhl.
If Feldman's Cutthroats beat Kellogg Thursday at 11 a.m., they'll advance to Friday's 2 p.m. semi-final against the winner of McCall and Marsh Valley. The other bracket has Weiser vs. Bliss (11-5-1) and Timberlake (8-7-2) vs. Teton.
The Cutthroat girls in 60 games over the past three years have outscored their opponents 285-70 including 31 shutouts. It's a well-rounded and powerful program, guided by 10th-year coach Feldman (118-50-10).
This year's team is young, with eight sophomores, three freshmen and four juniors. But the girls have allowed only 17 goals in 18 games, with nine shutouts, and will carry a 13-game unbeaten streak to state.