That rivalry stuff can wait a few more weeks.
This group of Sting Timbers has bigger goals in mind than who goes to what school.
“We’re kind of past that now,” said Sting Timbers forward Megan Drake, a recent Coeur d’Alene High graduate who has signed to play at Eastern Washington in the fall. “We’ve been playing together since we were 8. We’ve grown past that stage. We’re fine now.”
By winning the girls 18-and-under division at the recent US Youth Soccer Presidents Cup Far West Regional in Salt Lake City, the Sting Timbers qualified for the Presidents Cup national championship in Westfield, Ind., starting Thursday. It’s the first time a Sting Timbers team has qualified for nationals.
“We’ve made great strides since the State Cup,” Sting Timbers FC 00/01 coach Julio Morales said. “We’ve found a way to compete and have the pieces of the puzzle come together. In games and competition, we’ve just found a way to get it done.”
Players from the Sting Timbers squad all attend either Coeur d’Alene or Lake City High, except for one player who attends Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy.
“Right now, with (high school season) starting again, it (the rivalry) doesn’t matter,” said centerback Bridget Rieken, who is a rising senior at Lake City High, and who has verbally committed to Washington State. “We’re all talking about what our high school is doing, but it doesn’t really matter right now. We’re definitely all here to represent the city of Coeur d’Alene and not our individual schools.”
Goalkeeper Lily Foster, who will be a junior at Coeur d’Alene High, has enjoyed playing with the city-wide squad.
“What’s cool is we were able to bring the best of the players around,” said Foster, who shared keeper duties at Coeur d’Alene High last fall. “It’s really fun with play with a high level of athletes. It hasn’t been a weird thing (to play with kids from the other schools). We’re just trying to do our best. We can be players on the same team now, and can get that rivalry going later.”
“It really feels like a family,” said outside back Tiana Cydell, a Lake City High graduate who has signed with North Idaho College. “It’s a nice group to play with and we all play well together.”
After a runner-up finish at the State Cup in Boise, the Sting Timbers had their choice of regional tournaments to attend.
The more familiar regional tournament was the US Youth Soccer Far West Regional in Honolulu. The other, less-expensive option, was the Presidents Cup regional in Utah. Both attracted teams from the West.
“There’s not a huge difference in the two (regional tournaments),” said Morales, who is the technical director for the club. “This year, it was more competitive at the Presidents Cup because travel to Hawaii was a tough proposition (financially) to do for some teams.”
Drake scored a division-high 10 goals in the Far West Regionals.
“At regionals, I was definitely on it,” Drake said. “I was getting a lot of through balls (a forward pass played between defenders) and making my mark. With our midfielders, we’ve been playing with each other for so long, they always know where I am and where I’m going to beat defenders. So they know where to put the ball most of the time.”
The roster also includes: Sarah Swider (Coeur d’Alene High, Class of 2019), Erika Skindlov (Coeur d’Alene, ’20), Julianna Stith (Coeur d’Alene, ’20), Makenzie Mathis (Coeur d’Alene ’21), Megan Corette (Coeur d’Alene ’20), Chloe Teets (Lake City ’19), Eryn Ducote (Lake City ’19), Courtney Cydell (Lake City ’19), Charlotte Hennig (Lake City ’19), Lexi Medina (Lake City ’19), Madyson Smith (Lake City ’20) and Elizabeth Lehosit (Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy ’19).
“State Cup is a different entity in itself,” Morales said. “Most of these kids have been there, done that. And sometimes the play can be a little lackluster. Being there, it’s the final wrap on the season for some teams, so it’s hard to have something to play for. Once we made it to regionals, it gave us something to play for. We started getting positive results and kept riding it and overcoming obstacles like illness and injuries in Salt Lake City.”
“I’ve grown up with these players,” Drake said. “Julio has known me for five years, and knows how to make me a better player.”
Heading into the Far West Regionals, Rieken said the team wasn’t quite sure as to the result they’d get.
“We didn’t think it was going to be a good outcome (at regionals) because we didn’t win state,” Rieken said. “Now, we need to keep working to get better and focused going into nationals.”
At regionals, the Sting Timbers beat Soccer Life Academy of San Gabriel, Calif., 3-0, Arsenal SC of Lehi, Utah, 3-0 and Selma United of California 4-0 to win their pool. They then beat the Fullerton (Calif.) Rangers 7-0 in the quarterfinals and Billings United (Black) 2-1 on penalty kicks in the semis before beating L30 Nitro of Utah 2-1 in the championship match.
“When we saw our pool (for regionals), I was pretty much panicking,” Foster said. “I thought it was going to be an amazing experience. After we won our preliminary matches, it was incredible. We had people coming up to us and telling us we were good enough to get to Sunday (the championship round). We just started out not knowing how we’d do. It’s amazing to see the growth we’ve made. We’re just taking each game to improve on that.”
The Sting Timbers open the National Presidents Cup against CUFC of Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, then face Vereingung Erzgebirge of Warmister, Pa., on Friday, and conclude the four-team pool play round Saturday against Green White FC of Mount Prospect, Ill. The top two teams from pool play will face off in the championship match next Sunday.
“We always want to play at our best,” Drake said. “But if we work together, I think we’ll be fine.”
Rieken added that playing against teams from the other side of the United States is something she’s looking forward to.
“I’m really excited to see the different states we haven’t seen before,” Rieken said. “Just the competition and style of play. I’m looking forward to see how they put together a good game. I can’t wait. We’re excited and can’t wait to get there and compete.”
“I’m not nervous,” Cydell said. “I think we can do it if we put our minds to it. I’m really looking forward to the experience, getting to Indiana and getting the win. That would be fun.”
Foster hopes the experience will benefit her down the road.
“Anywhere you go, there’s some way to learn and grow in this sport,” Foster said. “I’m hoping to go and enjoy myself and learn a new outlook on the game.”
“There’s been a lot of positive momentum and support the last few weeks,” Morales said. “On the field, we’ve been training twice a day and trying to keep things as fluid as possible and staying consistent. We’ve been trying to maintain some focus and compete for a national championship.”
Starting Thursday, they’ll get to do that.