North Idaho College women's soccer coach Dan Hogan said that one of the reasons he dedicates his time to coaching youth club soccer is to help get the players to where they want to be.
Starting on Monday, three of four local clubs will take on the best of the best from the Northwest region in the US Soccer Far West Region IV tournament in Phoenix.
The Coeur d'Alene Sting under-15 gold and U14 gold girls squads, as well as the Idaho Thunder U18 boys, will make the trip to Phoenix after finishing in the top two at the State Cup in May.
The Idaho Thunder U17 boys will compete in the National Cup XI Northwest Regional starting next Saturday in Seattle.
THE STING U15 (Gold) opens the tournament against Players SC from Nevada on Monday, then plays Legends FC of Southern California on Tuesday and Eastside FC of Washington on Wednesday.
In all brackets, the top two from each group advance to the quarterfinals.
"They're a very athletic group," Hogan said of his team. "We've got five of them that are as fast as any of my college players."
At NIC, Hogan's team finished 14-2-1 last fall for its best finish in school history.
"The goal at this point in North Idaho is to help players get to where they want to be," Hogan said. "Whether that's Washington, Eastern Washington, Whitworth or NIC. At this level, we're looking to improve their skills to get them where they want to be. I'd expect there'd be some that might want to continue a little closer to home - and we hope to keep them - but the first goal is to get them where they want to be."
While they'll be looked at by college coaches, none can be recruited until next summer - which will be the summer prior to their junior year.
"They can't really be contacted by anyone yet," Hogan said. "When we play, there might be some Division I coaches that will take a peek at some of the teams we play and someone might catch their interest."
The top two teams from each pool in the Far West tournament advance to the quarterfinals.
Of the team’s draw, Hogan added it will be tougher than they’ve seen thus far.
“It’s not an easy group,” Hogan said. “We’ve got the Far West regional league champion from California that’s usually the best along the west coast. We’ve got to play as well as we possibly can. If we play really well and with a little luck, we could pull it off — but it’s going to be really tough.”
THE THUNDER U18 boys team is coached by Ruben Briseno, who has coached the team for the past five years, including a trip to regionals last year.
“We’ve got at least seven that have been playing for a while,” Briseno said. “Our goal all year was to be either first or second at state. Now we get a chance to go to regionals.”
The team, based in Post Falls, received a wild card to regionals last year in Utah.
“We only had 11 players that competed at regionals last year,” Briseno said. “Now, we’ve got a chance to play against some really good teams. The good thing is — they’re on it right now and playing well.”
The Thunder will face Sereno White (Arizona) on Monday, WPFL Black (Washington) on Tuesday and conclude against HSC Bulls Ka’ula (Hawaii) on Wednesday.
Of the players on the roster, only one has signed to play college soccer thus far — Scott Benner, at Saint Joseph’s, an NCAA Division III school in Maine.
“There’s a couple that are getting looked at now,” Briseno said. “We had a very good team last year, lost four players and have really been challenged this year.”
Briseno added that playing in tournaments in Portland and Las Vegas helped raise their competitive level.
“Last year, the parents committed for this area because we had a very good team,” Briseno said. “This year, we wanted to go a little further and played in those tournaments. It really helped us and the challenge was better. That’s why we did so well at state. The better teams you play, the better you get.”
THE STING U14 gold team won a state title in the U13 division last year, becoming the first team in program history to win back-to-back titles.
“This is a great group to coach,” said coach Chad Beadell, who also coaches the Lake City High boys team. “They’re very coachable. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to one or all of them — all eyes are on you. They do anything they can to the best of their ability and really want to be great soccer players.”
They open the tournament with the Northwest Nationals ’97 (Washington), and face the Orchard Valley Heat of Northern California on Tuesday and Legends FC of Southern California to conclude pool play Wednesday.
“We’re setting a tone here,” Beadell said. “The nice thing is when the 15-year olds won, they looked up to them. They wanted to do the same thing.”
While Beadell wasn’t at regionals with the team last year, he’s encouraged by how the team played.
“It sounded like they were really competitive,” Beadell said. “We had some things go our way at state and it was a complete team effort.”
The Sting U14 played up an age division in the Puget Sound League this spring.
“We took some lumps earlier this year and played up to get a little more physical play and get used to the faster play,” Beadell said.
The Sting also competed in a tournament in Las Vegas shorthanded over spring break.
“We were missing three starters that already had plans,” Beadell said. “The girls played well and it was a good experience to go on the road and play. After playing in the Puget Sound League, it was just good to play someone else.”
THE THUNDER U17 team returns nearly every player from a team that finished runner-up at nationals last year.
They’ll play three Washington teams at the National Cup XI Northwest Regional in Seattle — Tynecastle on Saturday, NWN Red on Sunday and Crossfire Premier on Monday.
The top team from each pool advances to play in the championship game on Tuesday.
“These guys have been play together since they were really young,” said Briggs Anderson, which coaches the team and is the club’s director of coaching. “They train remarkably and almost year-round.”
While they were successful last year, Anderson knows that won’t help win games this time around.
“Overall, this team this year had to overcome the confidence they gained last year,” Anderson said. “They created an ego that they’ve had to beat down. As long as we go into the tournament with our egos in check, we should get to advance to a medaling round and find themselves back at nationals.”
Nationals are the final week of July in Chicago.
“All of our players come from different schools,” Anderson said. “They’re made up of Lake City, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and East Valley kids. When you’ve got those kids that come together and create this team and have this bond, it’s incredible to coach.”
Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.