BLACKFOOT — When first year head coach Alisha Yeates and her team talked prior to the 2013 season, the team set the goal to just improve over last season.
But when the season was all said and done the Lady Broncos had a little more success than anyone in District 5/6 was expecting.
With two 1-0 wins over Preston last week, the Lady Broncos clinched their first berth in the 4A state soccer tournament in over a decade and now will take on District 1/2 champion Sandpoint today at Brothers Park in Caldwell.
"It feels so good to get back to state," Yeates said. "These girls have worked so hard to get to his point, I am so proud of them and can not wait to get started."
When the season began, Blackfoot knew that to reach the state tournament they were going to have to play well against an improving Preston team and the perennial power Century.
During the regular season meeting with both schools the Broncos had less than favorable results.
They were shut out by the Diamondbacks on senior night, then two days later a late Preston goal handed the Broncos a one goal loss.
But the familiarity with those two opponents and the mistakes made in the two losses allowed the Lady Broncos to make a for a complete difference in play.
In the district tournament open with the Indians a late goal from leading scorer Cassandra Clarke and some stout defense from the Lady Broncos back line defense was an enough for the victory setting up a rematch with the Diamondbacks with the district title on the line.
"We gave one of the best teams in the state all they could handle," Yeates said of the semifinal loss to Century. "I want to see them again and state, in fact I look forward to seeing them again."
In the Lady Broncos do get the see the Diamondbacks again they will need Clarke, the defense and goalie Madison Leslie to be the reason why.
Clarke has been tough to stop for most opponents this season. Not only was she the teams leading scorer, but she was also a big part of the midfield defense.
During the district tournament the Indians and the Diamondbacks had three and sometimes even four players surrounding Clarke to prevent her from scoring what could have been difference making goals.
Clarke will again see a lot of attention during the state tournament as teams look to shut down the Lady Broncos top scorer.
Leslie and the back line defense will again need to as stout as they have been in the last week.
"Madison Leslie has been a rock for us all season," Yeates said. "She has made a bunch of huge saves for all season, and been a big peace of our success."
The Lady Broncos first round opponent is Sandpoint who at 10-4-3 is one of the top teams in all of 4A and along with defending champion Bishop Kelly and Century are all favorites to take home the title.
Blackfoot's tournament run begins today at 11 a.m. at Brothers Park in Caldwell.