TRACK AND FIELD
TRACK AND FIELD
NWMT 'A' LINKS
2012 POLSON PIRATES BOYS SOCCER PREVIEW
August 28, 2012Northwest Montana A Conference
Fall 2012 Boys Soccer Preview:
Northern A Polson Pirates
by John Heglie
CURSORY RECAP OF 2011 PIRATE SOCCER SEASON
Last season the 2011 rendition of the Polson Pirates (6-2 conference, 9-4-2 overall) matched if not exceeded their deepest foray into the playoffs in the history of the program, playing for the State A Championship. Their blemishes were incurred from a trio of encounters with perennially formidable conference nemesis Whitefish, a nonconference loss to Stillwater Christian along with a pair of ties knotted against Hamilton and Belgrade. The preceeding year, the 2010 rendition of the Polson Pirates went undefeated in Northern A in the course of accruing a 7-0-1 conference record (9-4-1 overall), surrendering the least amount of goals while being reputed to be the stingiest defense in the state. Those records have been the best finishes posted by a Polson team under the tenure of coach Jess Kittle and their cumulative 18-8-3 total illustrates the rise of Polson to stand shoulder-to-shoulder among some of the elite Class A clubs throughout the state.
GRADUATIONS AND ADAPTATIONS TO THE 2011 PIRATE SOCCER ROSTER
The 2011 rendition of the state runner-up Polson Pirates find themselves in need of replacing nine slots created by vacancies to their roster from last season, a quintet of postseason accolade receiving starters and a quartet of reserves.
All-state, twice all-conference keeper/midfielder Clay “The Falcon” Frissell (1 goal, 1 assist in 2011) tallied 94 saves last season and made over 265 cumulative career saves in the course of guarding the box against airborne and ground attack incursions. If one factors in the half game of his Shodair Classic appearance as part of his prep totals, those figures would boost his totals just a little bit further.
All-state, twice all-conference defender/sweeper Nick Howell (1 goal, 1 assist in 2011), who would aptly merit the mantle of “Swiffer” because the quality of his defensive intercepts made routine broom sweeps pale by comparison, was a indispensible cog integral to the Polson Pirate defensive machinery. Howell is extending his athletic career playing soccer for the Rocky Mountain Battlin Bears in Billings, Montana.
All-state, twice all-conference midfielder/striker Riley “The Leg” aka “The Sniper” Lemm (15 goals, 3 assists in 2011, 3rd in state for scoring; career - 17 goals, 7 assists) displayed a penchant for cooking up an appropriate recipe for various field scenarios as well as was acquiring a knack for being able to sniper-shoot the ball into the other goal from the halfway mark past midfield.
Twice all-conference midfielder/defender Jonathan Murphy (3 goals, 7 assists in 2011, tied 3rd in state for assists; career - 4 goals, 9 assists), aka “Megatron,” created consternation for opponents with his patented long stride and Go-Go-Gadget-like mega throw-ins from the sidelines. Murphy is extending his soccer career at the collegiate level playing for the Rocky Mountain College Battlin Bears alongside Howell.
One of the most memorable prep soccer moments pertaining to all-conference defender Caden “The Baron” von Wildenradt (1 goal in 2011) was when he made a critical defensive play at the corner of the Pirate goal against Libby his junior season in 2010 that kept the Loggers from scoring and thereby preserved a scoreless tie that kept an undefeated 7-0-1 Northern A conference record intact for the Pirates.
A pair of valuable reserves who have also been lost due to graduation include midfielder VJ Araos (1 goal in 2011) and midfielder Everardo Guerrero. The Pirates will also have to fare without the contributions of a pair of would-have-been senior players who have relocated elsewhere outside the conference: Defender/striker Jon Heutmaker (3 goals, 2 assists in 2011; career - 4 goals, 2 assists) relocated within the state, but out of the county, while midfielder Zach Calhoun (1 assist in 2011; career - 2 assists) moved to the neighboring state of Wyoming, much to the chagrin of the purple & gold.
Both Frissell and Lemm were courted by offers from multiple programs, but opted to focus exclusively on extending their education for the time being.
2012 pirate varsity soccer roster
All state, twice all-conference senior midfielder/striker James “The Lawman” Larson (13 goals, 9 assists in 2011, 2nd in state for scoring, 1st in state for assists; career - 16 goals, 10 assists) is a smart, versatile as well as passionate player who is capable of infiltrating the designs of opponents to curtail movement of the ball up the field. Because Larson is both a hustler as well as a team player who strives to improve his game wherever possible, his exceptional footwork tends to open up offensive opportunities either for himself or for another teammate with an assist. Larson has been a contributing member of the Montana United soccer team for the past pair of seasons
Senior midfielder/striker Steven “Rocketman” Walk (1 goal, 2 assists in 2011) is a high octane player who tends to do little jogging out on the pitch when a game is in progress. At the defensive end of the spectrum, Walk has exceptional intercept speed for arresting the advance of an opposition ball handler and possesses the ability to recover quickly to continue dogging the heels of his mark. The quality of his offensive touches likewise improved exponentially since last season. Should a ball touch down anywhere near the vicinity of the net, those who fail to take into account his acceleration capability are liable to soon regret their lacsidaisical response to his proximity near their goal when he buries the ball by giving it a final resting place at the back of the net.
Senior goalkeeper/midfielder Spencer Kittle was the backup option for the Pirates at the keeper position last season. When Kittle has seen action in the box, he has handled some tough shots on goal with precision
The Pirate defensive array spells double trouble for opposition ball-handlers at the midfielder/defender position when the “Rumblin” Raymond siblings are working the field. Junior Jacob Raymond and sophomore Spencer Raymond both hail from a Scout background, where the motto “always be prepared” tends to be reflected in their dedication to their field-craft and hard work on the soccer pitch. While part of the Boy Scouts of America creed states, “I will do my best to help other people at all times,” the only help opponents are liable to get that is comparable to a stereotypical aiding of the elderly to cross a street will be the Raymond brothers simultaneously escorting their opponents out of their envisioned game plan.
Sophomore midfielder/striker Alex “The Hatchet” Helgeson (1 goal, 1 assist in 2011) has shown a penchant for above-average footwork with strategically sharp cut touches, deft passing and impressive finishes. The quality of his ball control has already paid dividends for the Pirates not only as a scoring threat, but also as a playmaker for others.
Sophomore midfielder/striker “Captain” Morgan Moll (1 goal in 2011) has good field awareness, an above average soccer IQ and made measurable improvement as a defender over the course of last season. Moll acquired his nickname on account of being in charge of dispensing and checking in equipment to a senior-laden squad who may have felt somewhat piqued at having to acquiese to directives from a then newbie freshman. While the designation was initially intended as “tongue in cheek,” it simultaneously conveys an acknowledgement of recognized leadership aptitude as well as an endorsement of his athletic capabilities.
Sophomore midfielder/striker Jonah “Kamikaze” Kasnitz (1 goal in 2011) has good dribbling skills for maneuvering the ball around defenses and has developed some deft swooping take away maneuvers as well that can then be passed along to a teammate to move the ball up the field. Those skills all came into play when he scored his first varsity goal toward the end of the season. Kasnitz just missed netting the equalizer by a fraction of an inch in the Class A championship game against Whitefish when it ricocheted off the post. Should similar opportunities arise in close game situations, Kasnitz will be all-the-more focused upon making sure the ball gets a quick burial at the back of the net from here on out.
Sophomore midfielder/striker Sam “Hammer It Home” Heutmaker has demonstrated measurable improvement in the areas of ball control and passing to the extent that he has now become an essential component to the Pirate offensive attack. His leg strength, good crosses and strong shot now make him a scoring threat to be reckoned with.
Sophomore defender/ keeper Trevor Basler saw limited playing time last season due to a nagging knee injury, but provides the Pirates with a developing player on an upward incline who can be inserted into the game at strategic situations.
The Pirates will be infused by a quintet of new players who are anticipated to fill in some of the attrition created by roster graduations:
Senior defender/midfielder Kellen Hoyt was an integral part of the roster for the Legion A baseball Northwest Regional champion Mission Valley Mariners, with whom he pitched a shutout this past Spring, accrued a 4-1 record and posted a stingy 1.18 ERA before he had to depart to fulfill military obligations by undergoing basic training with the Montana National Guard. Hoyt has also done some distance running in prep cross-country meets, where he was on the verge of cracking a sub-20 minute time in the 3 mile run. The physical exertion demands of Army basics not only increase the probability that he would likely crack the 20 minute barrier with relative ease, but he also enters the soccer season in superb condition when others are still puffing and wheezing as they attempt to catch their breath. Having become somewhat masterful with one type of pitch while throwing baseballs for the MV Mariners, he will now be called upon to make a transition by adapting his game to another type of pitch, namely that of playing on a soccer field.
Senior midfielder/striker Jarrod Plant was an integral part of the TEN STICKS Mission Valley lacrosse team, with whom he scored 2 goals and contributed 9 assists over the course of this past Spring season. Plant recently returned from Army basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Having emerged from their military regimen designed to sculpt ones physique in ways that often exceed the kind of conditioning drills typical of two-a-days, coupled with the more temperate climate of Montana in comparison to the humidity as well as heat of the South, Plant is anticipated to adapt to the demands of soccer without too much of a transition.
Wrestling 2011 divisional champion (105 lbs), twice all-conference, 2012 Greco-Roman champion (junior 126 lb class) junior midfielder/striker Dylan Moll will be continuing to devote himself to the challenging task of pinning his competition, only in this case his orientation will be toward immobilizing opponents on their side of midfield without the use of his upper extremities. Moll also has the kind of speed that allows one to accelerate quickly to close gaps, which will not only make him a defensive nemesis that irritates ball-handlers, but also will make him a bonifide offensive threat for defenders to contend with.
Freshman defender/midfielder Sutton Kanta was part of the roster on the recent 2012 Montana State Cup U16 MYSA state champion Polson FC with which his contributions included some scoring of goals over the course of the season. Having acquired a taste for the finer things of soccer life such as the winning of trophy hardware, the dedication of Kanta to honing his craft on the pitch is anticipated to be of such caliber as to maximize the opportunities of his team to dine once again at the postseason table.
The most recent athletic endeavors of incoming freshman midfielder/defender Jaben Wenzel have been in the sports of both football and wrestling, although he brings with him a background in which he participated in competitive soccer a few years back. During the course of refamiliarizing himself with some of the intricacies of varsity caliber soccer, Wenzel has displayed an aptitude for punctual timing of his arrival within space where the ball is being directed along with improved refinement of touches within his possession. Because he has familiarity with grinding things out on the gridiron as well as endurance wrestling, Wenzel is anticipated to not only make positive contributions with his time on the pitch, but also make a little noise in the process with his minutes.
Season Analysis and prognosis
One could say in a manner of speaking that the soccer stars were aligned for the 2011 rendition of the Polson Pirates last season with respect to their peak of the pinnacle performances that vaulted them all the way into the Class A state championship. But if one were to consult several of the players, they would likely point to other contributing factors for their success, namely in the direction of one who is ultimately responsible for framing the Polson soccer skies with such stars in the first place. Engaging in an astrological vs. theological debate would detract from the factors themselves, namely the quality level of Pirate soccer that was played last season. A trio of representation among the TOP TEN for scoring and/or assists. Five hat tricks turned on the season. A quartet of all-state accolades totaling six all-conference players. A dozen different goal scorers. Over 40 goals scored during the season. Roster participation in offseason Montana State Cup championship bouts as well as Montana United soccer club touring. Such a cumulative combination provided the coaching staff with soccer riches the likes of which had not been seen in such density for some time. As the Polson Pirates embark upon the 2012 season, 2011 Coach-of-the-Year Jess Kittle, assistant coach Mike Moll along with volunteer coaches Chris Moore and Dane Huyser aim to do more than just revel in memorable experiences of yesteryear as they seek to reprise the presence of the Polson Pirates in the postseason by propelling them back into the playoffs.
Finding replacements for the irreplaceable would be tantamount to a formula for frustration, so the coaching staff will focus instead upon reloading with returnees and recalibrate the offense to accommodate the changes in personell by tapping into their abundant capabilities. A tidepool of talent is resident among the roster. The question marks that remain are in regard to how timely that transition can transpire. One positive indicator that the 2012 rendition of the Polson Pirates are capable of elevating their game to match the level of their competition is reflected in the capturing of the 2012 MYSA Montana State Cup by U16 Polson FC, eight of whom are on the current Polson Pirate soccer roster. While the Pirates lost a battery of firepower due to graduation that accounted for slightly less than two-thirds of their goal production last season along with over a dozen assists, they still return over a third of their scoring capability with over two thirds of the players on their current roster demonstrating scoring potential during the course of either Fall or Spring soccer campaigns. That factor alone would seem to bode well for the ability of the team to go on the attack. What will be needed is to not merely demonstrate the capability of attacking, but being able to strategically finish an attack by netting a score at the end of a series, something that is often easier said than done when everybody wearing a different colored kit is aligned against your team accomplishing such a task. But offense is only one side of the coin. The Pirates will also have to effectively defend their goal against encroachment.
From a cursory point of view, the 2012 rendition of the Pirates would appear to be a fairly balanced club. Instead of being able to key on a single scoring superstar, the Pirate attack has tended to be comprised of different players stepping up at opportune times over the past couple of seasons. Such diversity makes the Pirates more difficult to defend against. Added to this consideration is the boost in confidence that comes from the realization that the quality level of soccer that Polson has been playing of recent vintage has drawn the attention of college soccer recruiters. Currently, a quintet of recent graduates are known to be extending their soccer careers playing at the collegiate level: 2011 grads Howell and Murphy with Rocky in Billings, 2010 grads Trevor Moll and Sean Hart with Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington; 2009 grad Andy Manley with Division III North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Consequently, it is not uncommon for players still in process of development to push themselves to new heights when expectation levels are high.
One can prognosticate on paper until the cows come home, but as sayings tend to go, the proof in the pudding is when the rubber meets the road. Translating that mishmash of adages simply means that the Pirate soccer season gets underway on the road this Tuesday, 28 August, against the Bigfork Vikings and all those mundane matters that we tend to be so curious about will soon be given some answers, whether for the better or for the worse.
Season soccer statistics compiled by Mike LaSalle and culled from the archives of the Northwest Montana A Conference website < http://www.ihigh.com/nwmta >.
Discrepancies in goal/assist tallies from records on the ihigh.com/nwmta site stem from data culled from daily newspaper game summaries featured in the Missoulian as well as Daily InterLake either reporting different numbers or providing additional information. In some cases, bits of information were gleaned from data mentioned in the weekly write-ups featured in a Lake County Leader or the Valley Journal article. The author is indebted to coach Kittle for supplying statistical data for some road games that were not reported in the game summaries in both daily and weekly newspapers.