The Fruitland girls soccer team does not have to play from behind very often.
But on Saturday, that’s what was required to win a state championship.
The Grizzlies rallied from two goals down to beat Sun Valley 4-3 in a thrilling 3A title game, completing an undefeated season and celebrating on a cool morning at Middleton High School.
Top-seeded Fruitland (18-0-1) outscored opponents 15-2 in its first two games of the state tournament, but in the final, Sun Valley took a 3-1 lead early in the second half, forcing the Grizzlies into an unusual, but not unprecedented, situation.
Coach Joal Herrera said he was recalling his team’s game against La Grande High (Oregon) in September. Fruitland was down 3-0 at halftime but came back to tie the game at 3, the lone blemish on its schedule.
“My thought was, we’re not going to change how we play,” Herrera said. “We got enough time on the clock to be persistent and keep doing what we’ve been doing all season long.”
Faith George and Abbi Roubidoux teamed up for the comeback goals, with Roubidoux, the team’s junior superstar, netting the tying score and the winner.
“We were really tense when we first started, but then we just snapped out of it,” Roubidoux told the Statesman after the game.
Fruitland won its first state title since 2008. Sun Valley (17-4-0), the 6th-seeded team in the state tournament, came up just short again.
In the boys 3A tournament, Sugar-Salem defeated McCall-Donnelly 5-1 on Saturday afternoon.
‘ALL MY FAITH IN THE GIRLS,’ FRUITLAND COACH SAYS
In a grueling first half on a cold, wet and gray morning, both teams managed one goal. Cutthroat sophomore Mia Hansmeyer, the tallest player on the field, flicked in a header off a corner kick just 8 minutes into the game. She nearly scored on another corner-kick header moments later.
Halfway through the first 40 minutes, Fruitland began regaining possession and putting together good sequences. The Grizzlies finally tied the score 10 minutes before halftime, when George, a senior, hammered home a shot from outside the 18-yard box.
Both goalies had some trouble in the wet conditions, which caused the ball to skip along the grass quickly. But Fruitland’s keeper, senior Brielle Stice, had nine saves on the game, and Sun Valley’s, senior Isabelle Thomson, had 10.
Six minutes into the second half, Sun Valley junior Gretel Huss launched a shot from well outside the 18-yard box that went over Stice’s head and into the net. Nine minutes later, Huss took aim from outside the box again, but this shot was low and hard. Stice got a hand on the slick ball but bobbled it a little, and it got past her for a 3-1 Cutthroat lead.
Herrera said he thought to himself, “if (the other team) could do it in that much time, so could we. I just put all my faith in the girls out there.”
Three minutes later, that faith paid off, as George scored again on a towering shot. Just a minute after that, Roubidoux, who entered the game with 75 goals on the season, got on the board, taking a pass from Abmri Hart, beating the last defender and nailing a shot into the bottom right corner for a 3-3 tie.
“We knew about Abbi,” Sun Valley coach Kelly Feldman said. “We felt like they hadn’t been challenged all season, and if we could challenge them and frustrate them, that that would be to our advantage.”
And for much of the game, the Sun Valley defense managed to keep Roubidoux in check, with many of her shots wide of the goal, often due to the Cutthroats’ tight marking. But it couldn’t last.
With about 20 minutes left in the game, things became even more physical, with multiple fouls called on both teams, but the dynamic duo of Roubidoux and George kept threatening. A shot from Roubidoux in the 62nd minute clanged off the top post, and a shot from George off a set piece was saved by Thomson.
On the other end, Hansmeyer had two good chances, including on a free kick that was saved.
With about 4 minutes left, George dropped a neat pass to Roubidoux, who gathered it at the top of the 18-yard box, made space for herself and drilled a shot low into the left-hand corner to win the game.
Roubidoux said that losing out on a state tournament try last year motivated Fruitland all season.
“We worked really hard this year,” she said. “Just practice, practice.”
‘THEY JUST RAN OUT OF STEAM’
Feldman has coached the Cutthroat for 21 years, and each year her team has come to the state tournament. Her girls have been to the state title game four times, but they’ve never won.
But this year Sun Valley had a harder time than usual during the regular season.
The school had not lost a league game since 2011, but Sun Valley dropped two this year, and also lost to local rival Wood River High for the first time since 2015.
“(My team) was laughing that they were sandbagging most of the season just to keep me on my toes,” Feldman said.
Sun Valley beat Kimberly High — after losing twice to them during the regular season — in both its district final and in overtime in the state quarterfinals. The Cutthroat then beat Teton 2-1 in OT in the semifinals. They were close to getting to OT in the final as well.
Feldman said her seniors “took over” and pushed the team during the postseason, and its aggressive strategy against Fruitland mostly paid off.
“I think that worked for us for most of the game, and then we really just kind of fell apart ... they just ran out of steam,” she said. Referring to the Grizzlies, she said, “We certainly scared them.”
Herrera, in his fourth year as head coach, said his team “just turned it up” this season. He said having Roubidoux’s golden feet has been a “blessing,” but her leadership is even more important.
“She’s got a great attitude and is super positive and really encouraging (to other players) all the time,” Herrera said. “She’s not just about her, she’s actually all about her team and (is) humble in that aspect.”
MCCALL FALLS IN 3A BOYS FINAL
Ricardo Contreras struck first in the third minute and finished with a hat trick to lead Sugar-Salem to a 5-1 win over McCall-Donnelly in the 3A boys soccer state championship Saturday at Middleton High.
The title is the first for the Diggers (18-3-0) since Idaho began sponsoring a state tournament in 2000. McCall-Donnelly (13-3-0) finished with the second-place trophy, its best finish since 2005.