SUN VALLEY • Persistence paid off Wednesday afternoon for both the boys and girls soccer squads at Community School as each team qualified for next week’s state tournament as the top district seed.
The Cutthroat boys defeated Wendell 1-0 while at the same time, only a few hundred yards away, their female counterparts took care of Gooding 4-1.
“That’s huge,” Community School boy’s soccer Head Coach and Athletic Director Richard Whitelaw said. “Both teams qualified first from our district. That’s good for the school.”
While the scores may seem to suggest otherwise, the two Community School teams took remarkably similar paths to their return trips to state. Each entered the half locked in a tie, despite having largely controlled first half action, before breaking through for the win after intermission.
For the boy’s team, Wednesday’s contest was its second in eight days against conference rival Wendell. While last week’s game was played at Gooding in warm temperatures and glaring sun, there was a chill in the air this time as the Cutthroats hosted.
The play on the field differed as well, with both teams passing the ball up and down the field with ease practically from the first whistle. The ball movement did not breed many shots on goal, though, at least not at first.
Wendell had a promising shot at scoring in the 25th minute off a corner kick, but it was deflected wide to the left and with it, seemingly, went the momentum.
Community School’s leading scorer, Jay Fitzgerald, nearly connected on a bicycle kick minutes later, followed in quick succession by narrow misses by two teammates.
Wendell had a near miss of its own shortly thereafter, but Fitzgerald once again brought the Cutthroats to the brink of scoring, missing a point-blank range header.
The volume of opportunities eventually paid off in the second half on a score by Community School’s John Blackburn, and that was all the team needed.
“It was always gonna be one goal, a pretty scrappy affair,” Whitelaw said. “Two good teams. We got our goal and held on.”
Gooding was a surprise opponent for the top seeded Cutthroat girls after upsetting Bliss Monday, but nonetheless gave them all they could handle in the first half.
As with their school’s boys, the Community School girls pushed the action early, but it did not result in an edge. Kyla Miller broke through to put her team on the board, but the lead lasted only seconds. Gooding’s Taylor Anthony scored almost immediately after play resumed.
“We thought we were all set and then let them come back and score that goal with 15 seconds left in the half,” Community School Head Coach Kelly Feldman said. “
With the game tied at half, Feldman reemphasized an attacking mentality.
Freshman Ella Viesturs clearly listened.
In just the second minutes of the second half, she rocketed a ball in for a lead her team would never relinquish. Feldman said Gooding was noticeably demoralized after that score and seem fatigued soon afterward.
“I was just trying to get the ball, keep it in our half, and get it in the goal,” Viesturs said.
For Viesturs, though, her work was not done. In the 56th minute, she added to the lead, then clinched the hat trick on a tricky angled shot from far to the right of the goal that swiftly slid behind the goalkeeper.
“It’s been taking us a while to get into that game mode,” Viesturs said. “In the second half, we get into it, start getting (the ball) down there.”
The Senators had their share of opportunities as well, but the fast Cutthroats caught up to them each team.
In one instance, a Community School defender’s footwork sent the Gooding player falling to the ground. No foul was called, but fans of both teams compared the maneuver to a football tackle.
That nullified perhaps the Senators best chance to reenter the fray, and the Cutthroats held on for the 4-1 win.
With both games taking place at Sagewillow Fields in Sun Valley, a number of fans roamed back and forth between the two games. Those that remained stationary often called or texted with those at the other game for updates, and the Cutthroat girls let out a cheer when told the boys had won as well.
With an eye toward the state tournament next week, both coaches said health and consistency will be key to keeping these runs going.
“I wish we could play a whole game,” Feldman said. “We were really moving the ball well in the second half. I’m hoping we can carry that momentum into state.”