At FC Boulder they have come to expect big things from every level of player and team whether recreational or competitive.
So it should be no surprise at the latest and greatest team to make a name for themselves is coach Phil Hufstrader's 02 girls elite team that advanced to U.S. Club Soccer National Cup XVI Finals; a cup-based national championship competition held in Westfield, Ind. on July 21-24.
The team, made of girls from all over the BoCo Region — including six of the high school teams from this past spring — captured the West Regional championship earlier this month in California and is a team that Hufstrader thoroughly enjoys being around and helping them reach their goals.
"It's a really good group of kids. (Assistant coach) Thomas Story has been working with them all season long with me and this is a group that had a great run during our club season, making it to the State Cup final last year and they seen to sort of rise to the occasion for every big event," said Hufstrader, who playing career took him to Brazil for a season. "They come together with a very single-minded purpose when they play together and it is a group that has a wonderful blend of personality in terms of their competitiveness, but also their keen culture. They really shine in the moments that matter and step up to the challenge and play together so well as a team."
In order to punch their ticket to Indiana, FC Boulder had to travel to California for the West Regional tournament and in the final they met the hometown favorites from Davis. And despite having the run of play — which is their style — they were scoreless into deep into the second half.
"We weren't necessarily under a ton of immense pressure but we didn't really create too many great chances.," Hufstrader said. "But as the half wore on and they got more and more fatigued and we began to see more and more opportunities and you could tell it was coming, because we were knocking on the door."
Finally, with under 15 minutes to play in regulation Lucy Paul (who just finished her freshman season for Carlos Real at Boulder and attends nearby Watershed School) lined up for a 30 yard free kick and tucked it just under the crossbar for the lone tally of the match.
FC Boulder appeared to have added on, but an offside call negated No. 2 and stingy defense did the rest of the work.
"We did a really good job defensively of dealing with them throwing numbers forward and putting balls at us; our back line held extremely strong with Brenna Wright (Legacy), Sunny Pine (Boulder), Zoe Johnston and Sitha Plinke (Boulder) played fantastic," Hufstrader said. "Our keeper Marisa Weygandt (Boulder) came up big in a couple of little moments where she had to be strong in the box.
"And the other big part of it was a lot of these girls played four games in four days and some of them playing 90 percent of the minutes. Avery LeBlanc (Silver Creek) played every minute of the final and was just a workhorse for us. Their willingness and their effort to put the team first is what got us the win for sure."
Hufstrader, who thinks his team will be pretty tough to beat when they get to Indiana, is confident in the system he has in place for the girls to succeed on the national level.
And they will be ready.
"I expect it to be very hot," Pine said. "Besides that, I really hope we show up and we end up playing our game and not get too nervous because it is a big tournament. I think if we stick to our identity and our values then we will be able to do well."