But the Boise State women’s soccer player struggled to do so during her first two seasons with the program. The junior forward hasn’t had that problem this season, though.
She is the Broncos’ leading goal scorer with eight goals, which is also tied for the second most in the Mountain West this season and tied for the 10th-most in a single season in program history.
Cross nearly moved up the record books again with three shots on goal during Boise State’s 1-0 shutout over reigning Mountain West Tournament champion San Jose State Thursday night at the Boas Soccer Complex. But she did assist Kenzie MacMillan in the lone goal of the night with just two seconds remaining in the first half to help keep Boise State (7-2-6 overall, 5-1-1 MW) second in the Mountain West standings.
“She just has so badly wanted to do this for so long,” senior goalkeeper Genevieve Crenshaw said. “I’m so happy that it’s finally coming to fruition and she’s finally been able to get that.”
The Anaheim, California native was seemingly destined to play soccer with her aptly last name.
“I’ve been told that my whole life,” Cross said with a laugh. “Whenever I was growing up, any time I’d cross the ball and they’d be like, ‘Carly Cross’ and everyone would just laugh.”
She certainly lived up to it.
Cross took right to the sport. Whenever she scored a goal during her youth league games, Cross held up her fingers. It signified how many she put in the back of the net. Cross once got up to 20.
“One day my dad was like, ‘Hey Carly, you need to stop doing that because it doesn’t look good on you bragging about your goals,’” Cross said with a laugh.
However, Cross kept on scoring throughout the years until reaching a crossroads during her sophomore year at Canyon High School.
Club soccer is how most kids get recruited for soccer these days. And while Cross was doing so, it was for her low-level local team. There were tryouts for the Slammers FC, who are based out of nearby Costa Mesa, CA. They’re a part of the Elite Club National League, which is one of the premier national soccer developmental leagues in the country.
But Cross didn’t know if she wanted to pursue it. So she called her older sister Bailey for advice.
“I told her I don’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I wanted to keep playing soccer because I just didn’t know if I really liked it at that point in time and if I was good enough for the next level,” Cross said. “But she was like ‘Carly, God gave you this skill in soccer for a reason. You can quit if you want, but I really don’t think that’s your calling. And I think you should keep going.’”
And it was a good thing too.
Cross not only made the Slammers FC, but became a fixture in their starting lineup and was an All-ECNL first-team selection.
“My coach Cheyne Gordon came up to me and was like, ‘Where’d you come from,’” Cross said with a laugh. “So that just kind of felt really special to me.
“I definitely surprised myself because playing with people at that level who are already committed, it just kind of brings your confidence out. I just felt like I played so much better once I got there and was like, ‘Well, OK, maybe I can go somewhere for soccer.’”
That ended up being Boise State where Cross had wanted to go even before her recruitment. Bailey’s boyfriend had gone there and raved about it. Cross went there herself for a camp during her sophomore year and instantly fell in love with the place.
“I just kind of had a feeling about Boise State,” Cross said. “Cheyne knew the Boise State coaches really well and he said that they really liked me. I was like, ‘Perfect, I only want to go there.’ There was no really deciding between any other schools.”
Added Boise State coach Jim Thomas: “I wish I had known that earlier,” he said with a laugh. “We joke about it all the time.”
Cross tallied 639 minutes in 20 matches, including three starts for the Broncos that first year.
But the season as a whole was tough on Cross.
She was gassing out after being out on the pitch for just five minutes.
“She would go out there and like throw a punch,” Crenshaw said with a laugh. “It was like what are you doing? She’d almost get too hyped up and then she’d be like, ‘OK, I’m tired.’”
“So we were always like, ‘Carly, you have the skill, go out there and breathe because you’ve got this.’
Cross took their advice.
She also switched up her diet a bit by making and managing her own meals.
“I think it was just the adrenaline and you really have no idea what you’re doing, honestly. Because you learn so much more when you’re in college,” Cross said. “So I think it was just the nerves. I remember being just so nervous.”
However, those eventually calmed.
Cross sent Boise State to the Mountain West Tournament with her first career goal during a 2-1 win over Utah State in the regular-season finale on Oct. 28, 2021.
“I literally cried because I was trying so hard,” Cross said. “I wanted to try so hard and be that person on the team. So scoring that goal was just amazing and the highlight of my freshman year for sure.”
But Cross ended up getting exposed to the coronavirus and missed the first two games of the Mountain West Tournament. She finished the year with one goal and a pair of assists.
The following year was also trying, but for a completely different reason.
Cross finished second on the team in both shots (40) and shots on goal (16) in 17 starts. But she only netted one goal again. And that came during the seventh game of the season during non-conference play.
“I’ve had so many chats with the girl just one-on-one. And I’m like, ‘It’s going to come,’” Crenshaw said. “So I had to remind her that we do this because we love this. Because when you’re going out there and you’re getting so frustrated with yourself that you’re not having fun and not loving the game anymore, that’s not good. You can’t do that to yourself.”
So Cross changed her mentality entirely heading into this season.
“I just kind of changed my mindset to maybe I don’t necessarily need to be the goal scorer for the team,” Cross said. “And I can be the one that assists or does the work on defense or whatever.”
She ended up being the goal scorer for the Broncos after all, though.
Cross worked with MacMillan, who she’s known since high school, and associate head coach Max Weber during the offseason to really develop better ways at getting to the goal, shot selection and her shot.
And it’s paid big-time dividends thus far.
Cross pulled off a hat trick in a 4-3 win over Eastern Washington on Sept. 7. It was the first three-goal game by a Boise State player since all-time leading goal scorer Raimee Sherle did it against New Mexico on Nov. 7, 2019. She’s just the sixth-ever Bronco to log a hat trick. It’s also the only one recorded by any player in the Mountain West this season.
It earned her Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week honors and a water bottle bath during her postgame interview.
“She’s always turned up to the gym for the offseason training, to technical training, to the team training and tonight with a commitment to get better every day. And she’s just getting rewarded for something that’s been going on for a long time,” Thomas said. “If you could see her in training, you’ll see her banging these goals in left, right and center. You’ll wonder why she’s not scoring 20 of them. But she’s been so committed to the cause. She’s an example to all the young players out there that they don’t come right away. You have to stick in it long enough.”
Crenshaw racked up six saves for her 18th career shutout. She’s now tied with Sydney Smith and Janelle Flores for the most all-time in school history. Crenshaw can break that record at home at 1 p.m. Sunday against Fresno State.
Thomas can make history Sunday, as well.
He’s one win away from picking up career win No. 111, which would tie Steve Lucas’ record.