Faith Lutheran and Pahrump Valley have never played girls soccer on the Class 4A level.
But when the 3A Southern League foes meet Thursday, a spot in the 4A state tournament will be on the line. And they’ve known it since before the season started.
“I really don’t know how to put that into words,” Faith Lutheran coach Dave Elliott said.
Pahrump Valley rose to 4A as a school last season, and Faith Lutheran followed suit this year. But neither school is part of the Clark County School District, whose 4A teams play girls soccer in the winter.
Both schools successfully petitioned the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association to be allowed to continue playing girls soccer in the fall.
The NIAA Board of Control in June approved having the two schools meet in a play-in game to the 4A tournament on a one-year basis, NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson said. The board will re-examine the issue in the future.
“This is the first time that a 4A girls team will be crowned as a state champion,” Nelson said. “We will not have a Northern champion. Southern Nevada 4A girls soccer will still be called ‘Southern Nevada state champion.’ ”
The board had voted three times to move 4A girls soccer in Southern Nevada to the fall to allow for a single state champion.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Johnson, the father of Green Valley soccer and volleyball player Emma Johnson, sued the NIAA and CCSD in April 2008 in an attempt to block the move. The switch would have prevented Emma Johnson from playing both sports, and Eric Johnson sued on a Title IX basis.
A settlement was reached in September 2008 that kept 4A girls soccer in Southern Nevada in the winter.
But when the Trojans (11-6, 7-3 3A Southern) visit the Crusaders (16-1-1, 10-0) at 6 p.m. Thursday, both teams could care less about that history. They just sense opportunity.
“We’re really excited,” said Faith Lutheran senior midfielder Maddy Courvoisier, who has committed to Texas Christian. “We’ve got a big game (Thursday). We’ve got to come out and be ready to play.”
The winner of Thursday’s game will play the No. 1 seed from the North in a 4A state semifinal Nov. 13 at Damonte Ranch High School in Reno.
“We’ve known about this game since the beginning of our season,” Pahrump Valley coach Greg Leseberg said. “This is the game we’ve all strived for.”
Faith Lutheran handled Pahrump Valley 5-1 in both regular-season meetings. The Crusaders allowed only four goals in league play.
Faith Lutheran senior defender Jessica Nelson said a key for the Crusaders was returning nine starters from a team that reached last year’s 3A state title game.
“It really does help,” she said. “We know what everyone’s doing and thinking.”
Elliott said he’d like to see Faith Lutheran play a full 4A schedule next year.
But for now, the Crusaders don’t mind answering when opportunity knocks.
“I think it kind of gives you the best of both worlds,” Courvoisier said. “You get to stay in the league you’ve been playing in most of your high school career, then you get a chance to go play some great competition up north.”