MOSCOW — How fitting, that in an Idaho vs. Boise State contest, there would be all the qualities particular to a long-standing feud.
During the season-opening soccer game Friday at the Kibbie Dome, there were more fouls (16) than shots (14) and chirpiness was rampant on both ends, especially from the crowd of 2,169, which heckled steadily until the final whistle sounded.
Just as appropriate — the lone goal came on an early penalty kick.
Broncos standout forward Raimee Sherle was tugged on the shirt by UI defender Kayleigh Frederick, who was tagged with a foul in the box. It set up Sherle’s penalty kick in the first half to make it 1-0, and the BSU defense held steady the rest of the way to upend the Vandals.
“They hate us, and we love playing them; they get us ready,” Boise State coach Jim Thomas said. “It’s always a contemptuous game. A lot of fouls, a lot of disconnection. It was a slugfest.”
From the start, whistles blew repeatedly, much to the chagrin of the UI faithful. By the time Sherle scored in the 19th minute, there’d already been six fouls.
The seventh set up Sherle, who tied for the nation’s lead with 20 goals in 2018. The 5-foot-2 senior whipped one right, out of the reach of Idaho goalkeeper Avrie Fox, who’d won a position battle in fall camp and was making her collegiate debut.
“My teammates are amazing; they find me in perfect positions,” said Sherle, a fleet-footed dribbler and third-team All-American last season. “I mix my shots up every time. I was lucky enough to finish it.”
Although getting the ball into scoring position was a tall task on both ends, when an open look came, the goallies largely stymied attempts.
Fox had two saves, both diving blocks — one being a notable, one-on-one grab. BSU goalie Sydney Smith was sure-handed, and stopped four shots.
But Fox’s work was limited, thanks to a combative UI box defense that gradually cracked how to stifle Sherle and Co.
“They started out strong, but I think we did a good job of figuring them out,” second-year UI coach Jeremy Clevenger said. “Once they got close to the goal, our defense really stepped up, and we were really organized.”
BSU’s — or, mostly Sherle’s — pace on the attack was weakened in the second half by adapted Vandal defenders. However, the Broncos were able to control the midfield, where UI was hard-pressed in forcing takeaways.
Four of UI’s five fouls were on attempted steals. BSU ballhandlers warded off most of the approaching challenges, and on the flip side, snuffed out scoring chances by Vandal forwards.
“They were very good at using their bodies, skill on the ball,” Clevenger said. “I thought we battled, gave a lot of 50/50 chances. I’m proud of how we competed, even with a little bigger team.”
Clevenger said there’s still work to do in sorting out a rotation, and finding a second and third goal-scoring option behind All-Big Sky forward Myah Merino. The Vandals got close on a pair of late Morgan Crosby corner kicks, but a scrum of defenders time and again cleared it.
“We had a lot of chances. It’s just tough to find those goals sometimes,” Clevenger said. “We gotta be a little more aggressive in the box.”
UI was aggressive from afar. Frederick launched three free kicks from 40 or more yards away, a design to “create havoc,” since some teams aren’t as organized down low early in the season, Clevenger said. These strikes were shots — and each of them came close to scoring, oftentimes fooling a portion of the crowd, which was UI’s second-largest for a soccer match behind its 2017 contest with BSU (4,171).
“It’s a great rivalry; we knew it’d be chippy,” Clevenger said. “Not all games are that chippy, but we knew it was gonna be quite a battle, and that’s part of (the building process).”
Boise State 1 0—1
Idaho 0 0—0
Boise State — Sherle (penalty kick), 17:50
Shots — Boise State 6, Idaho 8
Saves — Boise State 4, Idaho 2
Clark may be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.