At the beginning of the season, head coach Corey Toldson asked the members of the first-year Thunder Ridge High School boys soccer team to write down three things on a slip of paper.
An individual personal goal, a team goal and a life goal. Toldson also participated, and the Titans learned that they shared the same team goal.
“Before we wrote down our goals, everyone in their head wrote down ‘be district champion,’” sophomore defensive midfielder Austin Hoopes said Tuesday during practice.
Those slips of paper went into a jar deemed the ‘goals jar.’ The Titans have revisited those goals a few times since then, with a significant amount of time between each re-opening of the jar, and will revisit them again before playing their first state tournament game today. With the team goal of becoming 5A District 5-6 champion accomplished, the Titans are aiming to add to their historic season with an appearance in the 5A state tournament in their first year as a program.
“It shows that nothing is impossible,” said senior senior midfielder Emmanuel Garcia. “There were a lot of people doubting Thunder Ridge at first because we were losing games. We just practiced harder and used that as motivation.”
Thunder Ridge’s achievement is not unheard of in Idaho. Ridgevue reached the 2016 4A boys soccer state championships in its first year as a school, ultimately placing second to District 3 foe Skyview in double overtime. But no other District 6 school to open its doors since soccer became a sanctioned high school sport in Idaho in 2000 has sent a soccer team to state in its first year until Thunder Ridge did so this fall.
Toldson, who came to Thunder Ridge from Wyoming, said she recognized the Titans had ‘a lot of the right pieces’ upon beginning tryouts and practices. Like Thunder Ridge’s other sports teams, Toldson’s program brought together athletes from rival schools Bonneville and Hillcrest. Toldson said the Titans, who have only three seniors, meshed fairly quickly.
“A couple games in, I had no doubt we’d be where we are now,” Toldson said. “You could see the trust build.”
Hoopes, who previously attended Hillcrest, and Garcia and junior midfielder Jesus Lopez, who both previously attended Bonneville, said forming a new program displayed the different playing styles the athletes were used to from their previous teams. Once they became more familiar with each other, they found what worked for their new program.
“Throughout this year, we started working together,” Hoopes said.
Reminders of the history they were making also came throughout the season. Those reminders came without pressure, however.
Rather, Toldson said the Titans are here to ‘enjoy the process.’
“This is an amazing opportunity,” Toldson said. “Nobody else will get to be the first. It’s been a ride and a process and as this ride comes to an end, I want them to look back and remember what they’re playing for. We’ve enjoyed that process and we’re having fun.”
That message is one the Titans are carrying with them as they begin the 5A state tournament with an 11 a.m. match today versus District 3 No. 4 seed Borah (8-6-4) at the Idaho Falls Soccer Complex. Lopez, Hoopes and Garcia said they hope to make a statement this weekend.
“Thunder Ridge is good at soccer,” Hoopes said. “We want to be able to compete at the state level.”
“We want to show everyone who we are,” Garcia added.
A look at the seven other District 6 teams competing at this weekend’s state soccer tournaments:
MADISON BOBCATS (15-1-1)
The Bobcats make their third consecutive postseason appearance and seventh in program history upon winning their third consecutive 5A District 5-6 championship. Madison has never won a state trophy in girls soccer.
Madison’s two seniors, Sydney Thueson and Kennadey Yates, and numerous members of its junior class have contributed to the district title three-peat. The Bobcats are averaging six goals per game while holding opponents to an average of one goal per game.
The Bobcats begin state with an 11 a.m. match today at the Idaho Falls Soccer Complex against the team responsible for its lone loss this season —Timberline.
SKYLINE GRIZZLIES (14-2-0)
The Grizzlies make their second consecutive postseason appearance as a 4A school and 12th appearance in program history. They have never won a state trophy in girls soccer.
Skyline went undefeated versus 4A District 6 opponents this season, defeating Bonneville 4-0 to win its first district title since 2015 and first at the 4A level. The lone losses were to two state qualifier teams: three-time 5A District 5-6 champion Madison and Preston, which reached the 4A state tournament Saturday upon defeating Wood River 2-0.
Skyline begins the state tournament with a 12:30 p.m. (Mountain Time) match today against District 4-5 runner-up Century at Lake City High School in Coeur d’Alene.
SUGAR-SALEM DIGGERS (16-0-1)
The Diggers make their second consecutive postseason appearance and fifth appearance in program history upon defeating Teton 1-0 for their first 3A District 6 title since 2014. Sugar-Salem has never won a state trophy in girls soccer.
Of all eight District 6 teams going to state soccer, the Sugar-Salem girls are the lone undefeated team. The lone non-win was a scoreless draw in the season opener with eventual District 5 champion Marsh Valley. Perhaps more impressive is that 14 of the Diggers’ 16 wins were shutouts.
Sugar-Salem begins the state tournament with a 2 p.m. match today versus District 3 champion Weiser at Sunway Soccer Complex in Twin Falls.
TETON REDSKINS (12-5-0)
Teton makes its first postseason appearance since 2016 and its 12th appearance in program history. The Redskins have won four state trophies in girls soccer: a state title in 2007, third place in 2005 and 2006 and the consolation trophy in 2008.
All of Teton’s losses came to two teams: 3A District 5 champion Marsh Valley (two games) and District 6 champion 3A Sugar-Salem (three games). The Redskins reached state upon defeating American Falls 4-2 on penalty kicks in Saturday’s state play-in game. The score was knotted at 2-2 after full time and two overtimes.
Teton begins the state tournament with an 11 a.m. match Thursday versus District 1-2 champion and two-time defending state champion Coeur d’Alene Charter at Sunway Soccer Complex in Twin Falls.
RIGBY TROJANS (7-7-3)
Rigby’s postseason appearance is a historic one. In the 18 years soccer has been a sanctioned high school sport in Idaho, this is Rigby’s first appearance at either state soccer tournament — boys or girls — in school history.
The state tournament berth comes a year after Rigby fell to Upper Valley rival Madison in the 5A District 5-6 second place game. This year, it was the No. 4 seeded Trojans who defeated the No. 1 seeded Bobcats in the same game, 3-2 in overtime off a goal by Ethan Thompson. It was Rigby’s first win over Madison in four meetings this season.
Rigby begins the state tournament with a 2 p.m. match Thursday versus District 3 runner-up Timberline (12-5-2) at the Idaho Falls Soccer Complex.
HILLCREST KNIGHTS (14-1-3)
The Knights make their third consecutive postseason appearance and first at the 4A level since 2009. After winning two consecutive 5A District 5-6 titles, the Knights won the 4A District 6 title earlier this month 3-0 over Blackfoot. The Knights have won two state trophies in boys soccer: third place last season (as 5A) and third place in 2009 (as 4A).
The Knights enter state on a seven-game winning streak. Their lone loss came to Madison, which took the No. 1 seed into the 5A District 5-6 tournament, and their ties came to Idaho Falls (twice) and 5A District 5-6 champion Thunder Ridge. Nine of their 14 wins have been shutouts.
Hillcrest begins the state tournament with a 10 a.m. (Mountain Time) match versus District 4-5 runner-up Canyon Ridge (8-8-2) at Coeur d’Alene High School.
The Diggers make their sixth consecutive postseason appearance upon winning their third 3A District 6 championship in six seasons. Sugar-Salem has won three state trophies in boys soccer: third place in 2013, second place in 2014, third place in 2015.
Sugar-Salem’s lone loss was to conference foe Teton and its draw was against 5A Rigby. Both those matches took place in September. The Diggers enter state on a seven-game winning streak. Of their 16 wins, 14 were shutouts.
Sugar-Salem begins state with a 2 p.m. match Thursday versus the District 4 No. 3 seed Filer (12-5-3) at Sunway Soccer Complex in Twin Falls.