The 2019 season began with promise and optimism but also question marks for the Bonneville High School girls soccer team.
The biggest questions were how would the Bees fill the vacancies left by a talented 2019 senior class, especially on offense, and how would the influx of freshmen do?
Those questions were answered within the first two games, a 4-2 win at Jerome and a 4-2 win at Thunder Ridge. All eight goals were scored by freshmen and sophomores, and both games were come-from-behind wins.
"We hadn't done that before in the time I've been here," Bonneville coach Amy Feik said of the second-half comebacks. "In the past, Bonneville had this thing where we'd go into games expecting to lose. If we conceded a goal, we lost. This year, things happened to change that mentality. Once we got a few games behind ourselves, I was like, 'We might be able to pull it off this year.'"
Bonneville pulled off its biggest goal of Feik's five years as head coach by defeating Idaho Falls 1-0 in the 4A District 6 second-place game on Oct. 19 in driving wind and rain on its home field to qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2008. Senior captain Madison Pugmire, who made the game-winning free kick in the 68th minute, said reality hadn't fully sunk in three days later.
"In the halls, people will congratulate me and say good luck," Pugmire said. "It's been a goal for me since freshman year. I did this. I'm going to state."
Feik and Pugmire along with Pugmire's fellow senior captains and four-year varsity players Grace Haroldsen and Alissa Andrus point to a change in mentality and year-by-year goal setting as the catalysts for Bonneville's progress the last four years. Feik said the Bees set three season goals and three goals for each practice, and those goals were modified as the program continued making strides. Among those goals were to beat District 93 rival Hillcrest (the Bees accomplished that Sept. 30, 2017 for their first win over the Knights since 2002), finish top 3 in the district (accomplished multiple times) and reach the state play-in games or district second place games (accomplished in 2017, 2018 and 2019). Bonneville finished 11-7-3 overall last year for its first winning season in at least a decade, a win total that has been already been surpassed this season.
"There were many practices where I'd ask, 'Do you want to go to state?' They'd say 'yes' and I'd say, 'We have to start working on it now,'' Feik said. "I think the goals are the biggest thing so far. Not forgetting where we've been, but build on it. We're still not there yet, but this is a good start."
As for the uncertainties entering this season about filling vacancies of graduated players, Feik's three captains said those concerns were quickly put to rest. Starting the season 3-0 set a positive tone and allowed them to see the offensive firepower in the freshman forward trio of Ali Ellsworth, Reagan Flynn and Brooklyn Pett, whom Feik said have all stepped up and done their jobs well.
"They're all more confident than I was as a freshman," Haroldsen said. "It's been awesome. They all work extremely hard."
Pugmire and Andrus said they are also impressed with their freshman teammates and made it a priority to make them feel welcome from the start.
"My freshman year, I wasn't really close with the seniors," Pugmire said. "I was super nervous. I didn't want it to be like that (for this year's freshmen). We don't treat them like freshmen, if that makes sense. We're more like a family this year."
So far, the freshmen are scoring in bunches. Flynn has scored 21 goals--which Feik pointed out is four goals shy of Bonneville's total goals scored in her first season as coach--while Ellsworth has 12 goals and Pett has 11. Andrus said the freshmen have adjusted to varsity soccer with ease and have become part of a close knit team.
"Usually there's a bit of transition coming from middle school to high school soccer, but it didn't faze them," Andrus said. "They were like varsity players from the get go. We treat each other all the same. Whether you're a freshman or a senior, it doesn't matter because this sport is there for everyone. You can tell that everyone cares about each other."
Pett, who played with Ellsworth for years before Flynn joined their tandem this year upon moving to Idaho from Georgia, attested to how welcoming her captains have been. After the win over Idaho Falls, she was equally as excited as the seniors were to cross 'qualify for state' off their goal board hanging on the shed next to their field.
"I was super cold and my hands were numb, but we were all just clapping and hugging," Pett said.
On the other side of the coin, Feik said her three captains deserve much credit for Bonneville having a historic season. Their experience and willingness to take the initiative in practice and games has influenced their younger teammates.
"They're the rocks of the team," Feik said. "People lean on them and it shows."
Bonneville begins its first state tournament this decade with a 2 p.m. game Thursday at Brothers Park in Caldwell versus a powerhouse, three-time defending state champion Bishop Kelly. Feik and her captains said they have to treat the Knights like any other other team they face and work hard no matter the result.
"Like Coach says, 'Any team, any time,'" Pugmire said. "I'm hoping we leave everything on the field."
Pugmire added that from the moment the varsity roster was finalized after tryouts, everything 'felt right' about this team. Feik said the Bees, who have seven underclassmen on their varsity roster, have been genuinely fun to coach.
"This is an amazing group of girls," Feik said. "They're always asking what they can do to improve. They turn to each other and when someone is doing something well they want to work on, they work with each other. I give them all the credit in the world. They're the ones on the field. They're the ones putting in the work."
Haroldsen expanded on her coach's words by adding that there is no negativity within the team. She was missing her graduated teammates when she started the season, and now she is a leader on a team that has brought her new and closer friendships.
"I wasn't sure if I'd have any friends this year because a lot of them left last year, but I've made friends with them all," Haroldsen said.
For Andrus, the big picture perspective of her four-year varsity career and the opportunity this weekend is that nothing has been given to the Bees. Rather than expecting progress, Andrus said the Bees never stopped pursuing it.
"Everything took a challenge," Andrus said. "I like the challenge because we've always had to work for it."