The winningest senior class is gone with the wind and in come 11 new faces for coach Pete Showler and the Idaho soccer program.
That senior class, which include the program’s all-time leading scorer in forward Chelsea Small, as well as the Vandals’ all-time saves leader in goalkeeper Liz Boyden, won 37 total games, the most by a four-year group in program history.
That void will be filled by a few returning starters, but Idaho’s 11 signees, which also serve as the most Showler’s recruited during his eight-year stint in Moscow, will look to carry the legacy that the 2012 seniors left.
“It’s a tough act to follow but it’s also exciting because it’s almost like a fresh start,” Showler said. “The 13 girls who are practicing every morning and working out every morning right now are coming together fantastically well and they’re going to be the next cornerstone of where we’re at. Bringing in literally half a whole team is going to be phenomenal…”
Showler hopes to bring in two additional players before the signing period ends.
The 11 players that signed their National Letter of Intent Wednesday hail from six different states, and specific areas that Showler has had success with in recent years.
The recruiting trail began closer to home, as Showler was able to ink a couple of Spokane Shadow club products; those being Moscow native Madi Criner and Alyssa Lloyd of Colbert, Wash., and Mt. Spokane High School. Showler has developed a pipeline with Spokane’s premier youth soccer club, the same club that produced 2012 seniors Boyden, Lauren Layton and Erica Hart — in addition to a few players on the current roster.
Criner is the daughter of former Idaho defensive coordinator Mark Criner.
“If you’ve met her dad, you know what kind of character she’s going to be,” Showler said.
With eight of the 11 recruits coming from the Pacific Northwest region, Showler made sure not to miss out on Southern California, home to Small, Amber Pimley and Megan Lopez, all starters on the 2012 squad.
The Idaho gaffer picked up one SoCal recruit, that being Gabby Leong of Upland. Leong, a 5-foot-2 midfielder, currently plays at Upland High School, a team ranked No. 1 in the state of California and No. 3 in the nation by MaxPreps.com.
Leong had an opportunity to graduate early and join the program this spring, but Showler would rather see her compete for national accolades.
“When you have a player at that level, and she’s playing club soccer at the Slammers, who are perennially in the national rankings,” he said.
With two graduated goalkeepers, the Vandals lacked any kind of depth at the goalkeeper position, as sophomore Marina Siegl remained the only keeper on the roster.
Showler addressed that problem, attracting Torell Stewart from Highlands Ranch, Colo., a 2011 Colorado 5A state champion at Mountain Vista High School. With two more slots to fill, he plans to bring in one additional goalkeeper.
Having worked with the Olympic Development Program (ODP) and Oregon Youth Soccer Association (OYSA), Showler’s ties in the state of Oregon have paid off in recent years and that pipeline rewarded him with three commitments on signing day.
Twin sisters Alyssa and Amanda Pease come to Idaho from Bend, Ore., also home to current Vandal forward Breanna Wilson.
The Pease sisters were instrumental to Bend High School’s 11-4 record, with Alyssa earning 2012 Oregon 5A All-State Second Team honors, and Amanda earning 2012 Honorable Mention All-Intermountain Conference honors.
“The nice thing is they’re so different. Alyssa’s a crafty little player, not overly little but she’s very different than her sister. Her sister’s one of the top Oregon sprinters, one of the top sprinters in the 100 and 200 in the state. She gets up and down the line like a fiddler’s elbow,” Showler said.
Idaho has yet to announce its 2013 fall slate, but Showler expects a “very high-profile” team to visit Moscow for an exhibition before the team jumps into its regular season schedule.
The team will open at Weber State and play at Idaho State before visiting Palouse rival Washington State on Labor Day weekend. Idaho will then travel to North Dakota for a game against North Dakota State and Nebraska to square off with Creighton. Also in nonconference, the Vandals will visit Nevada and UNLV.
Theo Lawson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org