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Goal Achieved! Wood River Soccer Players Claim State Championship
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Tuesday, October 24, 2023
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY HEATHER FOSTER

They started the season in August by defeating Caldwell High School, the defending 4A state soccer champions.

And the Wood River High School varsity soccer team didn’t let up, even as they battled through injuries and grade issues.

Their determination paid off on Saturday when the team defeated Sandpoint High School 3-1 in the 4A boys state final to win their first state title since 2017. They had 18 wins, two losses and two ties on the season.

“The boys were ecstatic—everybody’s dream and goal at the beginning of the season was to win state. And to finish like this was very happy moment--a combination of excitement and relief,” said first-year coach Greg Gvozdas. “We’ve spent a lot of time together each day since August. So, it was very exciting for the seniors to get that final piece of the puzzle put together on Saturday.”

State takes the top eight teams from across the state—something WRHS sealed with its big win over Thunder Ridge and its last win over Mountain Home. The Wolverines opened up against Idaho Falls at Brothers Park in Caldwell on Thursday.

The Wood River boys were able to jump on top early with two goals from Reidar Slotten. They gave up a goal midway through the first half, but Satya Redman scored a third goal in the second half to give the Wolverines a 3-1 win.

The Wolverines played in the semi-finals against Boise’s Bishop Kelly High School, a very talented, sports-heavy school, on Friday in Caldwell.  The Catholic school cancelled school that day so a large cheering contingent could cheer for their Knights.

Both the Knights and Wolverines buckled down, running up and down the field with the game ending 0-0 and going to overtime. The two teams played two 10-minute overtimes with goalies from both teams keeping the other team scoreless.

The first two shooters for both schools made their shots, with Conrad Foster and Redman making their shots for WRHS. Then WRHS goalie Ben Torres made a save on the Knights’ third shot while Slotten made WRHS’s third shot.

The remaining players made their shots, with Garin Beste and Brandon Marroquin giving WRHS a 5-4 win on pony kicks.

“The biggest thing with a game like that is that it becomes a mental battle to make sure you don’t make a mistake,” said Gvozdas, who teaches middle school math and played soccer at DePauw University. “Any potential slip-up could be the difference. We tried to play smart defense to see if we could break them down and we couldn’t break them down. They did the same thing with us.”

The Wolverines went up against Sandpoint at Saturday in Middleton—after the Sun Valley Community School boys had lost 2-1 in the state 3A finals earlier that morning.

The WRHS boys were bolstered by a large cheering section, thanks to a large number of students who drove over to support them, alongside the parents who had occupied the stands the first two games. Still others watched the game as it was livestreamed at South Valley Pizzeria in Bellevue.

WRHS players came out a little nervous, a little sloppy with their touches. They gave up the first goal of the game at the 20-minute mark, but Jake Tierney responded with a score for WRHS. A few minutes later the WRHS team went up 2-1 when Conrad Foster was able to score off a cross, knocking the ball into the net with his head.

WRHS applied pressure on the Sandpoint team in the second half, taking 15 shots on goal compared with the Bulldogs’ six. And, with four minutes left, Marroquin scored to make it 3-1 and put it out of reach.

The WRHS drum line led the team on a parade around the high school campus on Monday. And the boys will soon have the honor of seeing their state championship banner go up on the gym walls.

The team will lose seven varsity players to graduation this year, as well as three seniors who played junior varsity.

“But I feel like we have a lot of young players who will continue to contribute and have larger roles next year,” said Gvozdas. “We even have some coming up from the middle school who won their own conference tournament this year.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Conrad Foster, considered a key contributor to the soccer team’s success, also kicks field goals for the Wood River high School football. That means he plays two fall sports at the same time.

He isn’t the only one. A sophomore doubles as a soccer player and football kicker for the junior varsity teams.

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