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POLSON LADY PIRATES 2013 SOCCER PREVIEW
September 4, 2013Northwest Montana A Conference
Fall 2013 Girls Soccer Preview: Northern A Polson Lady Pirates
by John Heglie
RECAP OF 2012 SEASON
With the graduation of seven senior contributors along with a pair of foreign exchange students from the preceeding season, the 2012 rendition of the Polson Lady Pirates (2-7-1, 2-5-1) found themselves in a rebuilding phase. Highlights included a sweep of the Bigfork Valkyries and the forging of a scoreless tie on the road against the Libby Lady Loggers in their final game of the season. A pair of nonconference matches with Belgrade and Park were cancelled due to unsafe air quality caused by area forest fires. The team graduated no players from their roster last season, so the Lady Pirates return a solid core of contributors. Those who were relatively new to the game of competitive prep soccer last season have gained valuable experience that has helped hone their soccer skills into more formidable capabilities for the tasks that lie ahead with the inauguration of a new season.
2013 lady pirate varsity soccer roster
With the return of a solid core of veteran players infused with new talent, the 2013 rendition of the Lady Pirates will aim to make incremental improvements in the win-loss column.
Senior keeper/midfielder Monica Cleveland (career: MHSA - 3 assists, MYSA - 1 goal) is a tough as nails defender when it comes to guarding the box against the encroachment of the ball. Cleveland is not intimidated about engaging an opponent attempting to advance the ball in her direction, an assessment aptly illustrated by the cast she had to wear on her arm the latter portion of last season when it was injured in the course of denying a shot attempt on the goal she was defending. Cleveland has been fired upon at while defending the box over 300 times over the past pair of seasons. Fortunately for the Lady Pirates, thus far she has shown little indication of suffering from any ill effects from any variant form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that those who place their bodies at risk in battles featuring fast moving flying objects hurled their direction at high velocity are sometimes prone to experience. Tabulating from daily newspaper game summaries, Cleveland has notched in the neighborhood of 176 saves while guarding the box the past pair of seasons and would have easily crested the double century club mark in this category had she not been injured at midseason.
Track & Field twice all-conference, state-qualifying discus hurling senior defender Amanda Harrod was renowned for being one of the staunchest defenders of the paint against encroachment when she played basketball at an earlier juncture in her prep education. Harrod applies a similar tenacity on the soccer pitch with her disruption of attempts to move the ball up the field against the Lady Pirates.
The all-around athleticism of softball 14U ASA state champion senior midfielder/striker Kyrie Bitterman could have a souring affect upon the aspirations of players who attempt to tangle toe-to-toe with the footwork of this Lady Pirate.
A relative newcomer to the game of soccer last season, the understanding of the game by senior defender Melina Jore has progressed exponentially by leaps and bounds. Jore now brings both confidence as well as understanding to the pitch, able to strategically positioning herself to either shield the ball or intercept its advance. Much like the javelin she tosses with proficiency over the course of past track & field seasons, opponents will find that Jore has a sharper edge to her game when they match up against her this time around.
Senior midfielder/striker Elise Spell (2012 - 1 goal) was another newcomer last year whose soccer acumen has likewise undergone a substantial metamorphosis. When Elise casts he version of a Spell during the course of a soccer game, it tends to involve calculated kicks, precision passing or disruptive defense rather than any twitching of the nose or waving of the wand like an enchanted person stereotypically characterized in a Bewitched TV episode or Harry Potter sequel.
All-state, all-conference junior midfielder Sarah Howell (Fall 2012 MHSA - 7 goals, 2 assist; Spring 2013 U16 MYSA - 25 goals, 15 assists) has superb ball control skills that coincide with exceptional field awareness. Howell is the third installment of sibling predecessors who not only garnered multiple post-season credentials, but also were recruited to play at the collegiate level. Because apples seldom seem to fall far from the tree when it comes to this family pedigree, fans should not be surprised to witness a display of skill sets that sometimes exceed ordinary expectations.
The deft footwork, speed and endurance demonstrated by all-conference junior defender/striker Linnea Madsen (career: Fall MHSA - 2 goals, 3 assists; Spring 2013 U16 MYSA - 1 goal, 2 assists) will have an inhibiting effect upon attempts by the other team to advance the ball within her quadrant of the field. Madsen tends to be both savvy as well as smart about using angles to infiltrate ball movement, an indication that paying attention to lessons imparted in a geometry class can pay off with real life applications.
Junior midfielder/striker Keely Clairmont (1 goal in 2011) is an apt student of the game whose speed and refined touches on the ball make her a formidable threat anywhere on the pitch. The swooping-like vectors she often takes when defensively intercepting the ball, coupled with the phonetic double K sound of her name, merits likening such capabilities with those of a kestrel, a winged raptor renowned for its relentless pursuit of its prey as it locks in on the tail feathers of its quarry. Should the need arise, Clairmont can also aptly fill in at goalkeeper, having guarded the box 106 times against shots at the goal while notching 72 saves in relief the second half of last season when Cleveland was injured.
At an earlier juncture in her schooling, sophomore defender/midfielder Mollie Lemm attended many a soccer match to watch her sibling play on the pitch. Back in the day it was not an uncommon sight to see her rove the sidelines as one of the ball girls who would intercept errant kicks and sometimes snare an impressive catch now and then. Lemm is now part of the marquee attraction itself and fans may witness occasions where she implements techniques she observed to be quite effective during the course of watching many of those contests.
Opponents who face off against sophomore defender/midfielder Tessa Nunlist soon realize they are contending against a feisty player who has both wheels as well as stamina. If Nunlist occasionally seems to motor about the soccer pitch almost effortlessly, her conditioning can be partially attributed to having just completed the week long Cycle Greater Yellowstone, a bike trek that covers a total of 460 miles with cumulative gains in elevation of close to 18 thousand feet.
Sophomore defender/midfielder Sheridan Houle (2012 - 1 goal, 1 assist) is another player whose skill levels have improved with a season of experience under her belt. Houle has been acquiring some punch to her punt to coincide with some precision passing as evidenced by the goal and assist she tallied last season.
The Lady Pirates will likely benefit from some imported talent infusing their corps. Adding some European flavor to the PLP recipe will be Swedish junior striker Ebba Hakansson and German exchange student Laura Baehrs. The team may also get a boost from sophomore Minnesota transfer Tyra Huitt from the land of ten thousands lakes.
Rounding out the Lady Pirate roster is an influx of numerous incoming freshmen, many whose chronological student-age status may rate them as underclassmen, but whose soccer IQ gravitates closer to that more typical of upperclassmen. Those tasked to apply pressure on the goal of the opponent include strikers Tiara Duford as well as Hannah Kasnitz. Defenders against the ball encroaching too closely upon the Lady Pirate goal include Olivia Hewston, Hannah Hobbs, Sophia Sisler along with Dayne Smith. Those who could flex in supplement of others at either end of the field include defender/strikers Camas Renault, Alana Fox and Breyland McColl. Midfielder/goalkeeper Jenna Evertz provides a backup option at a couple of crucial positions. Others who will lend other aspects of logistical support for the team include Whitney Barr and Kiana Snyder.
Season Analysis and prognosis
Head coach Michael Hewston, assisted by Jose Vicente Franco, enters upon his fifth year at the helm of the Lady Pirates. Last season the team embarked upon a period of adjustment as it sought to adapt to the transition from a veteran laden squad drawing from a full roster contingent the preceding season to fielding a team with no senior representation within its lineup, several novice players new to competitive prep soccer as well as reduced overall turnout numbers. Before the halfway juncture of the schedule, untimely injuries had taken a toll by depleting the number of substitutes available to relieve starters who could give those who were spent a breather. By the end of the regular season, the roster had suffered further attrition to the point that only a single reserve player remained healthy enough to function in the capacity as a substitute, and even they were playing with an injury that likely would have precluded participation in any other sport that utilizes more of the upper torso. Consequently, teams that were held in check in the early going and were embroiled in closely contested games up until the buzzer at intermission were often able to capitalize upon their numerical as well as skill advantages to open up a margin of separation against the Lady Pirates. In drawing upon any kind of race car analogy, the vehicle with fresher tires and plenty of gas remaining in its tank is going to prevail more often than not over its competition when the other engine is sputtering while it operates on fumes while attempting to gain traction on tires worn thin.
In comparison to last season, the outlook for the 2013 girls soccer campaign appears closer to some version of a famine-to-feast or rags-to-riches scenario. On the numerical front, virtually the entire roster from last season returns for the Lady Pirates. Bolstering this positive development is that the incoming frosh class alone comes close to doubling the number of available reserves when compared to the much leaner offerings available on the sideline toward the close of last season. On the skill level front, most of the returnees have acquired a couple of additional seasons of experience under their belts from both Fall MHSA and Spring MYSA campaigns. Novices at the beginning of last year are now much more seasoned entering the current schedule. Adding to this is an influx of incoming freshman, many of whom have played competitive soccer for years and are oozing with potential as they develop further. Not only do they infuse the Lady Pirate lineup with skills at various positions, many of these frosh bring with them bragging rights that coincide with capturing post-season hardware. A majority of them were members of the Polson FC 14U ASA State Cup winners of their bracket, indicative that they have a fair idea of what to do on the pitch when it comes to kicking around a soccer ball. The majority of the returnees have also been honing their soccer skills at the 16U ASA level. Their Polson FC 16U team qualified for the championship at a couple of prestigious tournaments this past spring, prevailing over several talent-laden clubs along the way. Such performances are indicative of a healthy blend of confidence along with competence that bodes well for the performance capabilities of Polson Lady Pirate soccer as this season commences.
The combination of healthy program numbers that coincide with substantial skill capabilities are anticipated to provide Polson with the potential to push the pace on the pitch to its own advantage rather than have the tempo dictated to them as has sometimes been the trend in the past. The skill levels of several of the incoming freshman provide the Lady Pirates with depth at multiple positions with little dip in competitiveness, allowing from almost seamless substitutions. This opens up the prospect for the Lady Pirates to conduct a greater share of the plundering and pillaging out on the pitch, characteristics more in step with behaviors stereotypically associated with their school mascot. The goal beyond the goals is for the team to vie for a slot that qualifies them to dine at the postseason table. From the viewpoint of these paper prognostications, it would seem that a legitimate case could be made for the Lady Pirates that they may not only climb the ladder in terms of competitiveness, but could move up a few rungs in the standings if they execute at the level of their capabilities.
One area that continues to merit attention will be for defenders to reduce pressure placed upon the Polson goalkeeper by dropping the number of cumulative shots taken ON the frame of the goal. Irrespective of the skill level of any keeper, it is inevitable that the percentages gravitate in favor of the opposing team when too many shots end up being taken on goal. Another area of focus that merits attention would be to reverse that pressure by applying it upon the other goal by taking more quality shots at their goalkeeper. It is tough for an opposing club to establish any game rhythm when one keeps rocking the other team back on its heels on defense. The Lady Pirates might be inclined to breathe a sigh of relief that they will no longer have to contend against the likes of mega-scorers Danielle “DD (Doubly Dangerous)” Delventhal of the CFalls Wildkats or Megan Danczyk of the Whitefish Lady Bulldogs on account of their graduations, who scored a combined 6 goals and 4 assists in their quartet of games against Polson last season. But Polson defenders will still need to remain vigilant against the likes of plenty of Top 20 scorers among the teams they will face this season. The best means of defense against such scoring threats is to severely scale back their opportunities if not neutralize any threat altogether.
The Northern A tends to be one of the more brutally competitive conferences over the course of the past decade. Columbia Falls fell short in last year’s championship and Whitefish lost by a mere goal in the quarterfinals against eventual champion Billings Central. Consequently, contending against teams within the Northern A tends to be exceptional preparation for postseason aspirations IF a team can emerge somewhat intact from the regular season schedule. If Polson successfully integrates its new crop of players early to forge a strong team dynamic, then it may be able to shape the rhythm of its games more to its liking. The Lady Pirates open their season at home against the Bigfork Valkyries the first Tuesday in September in this first of a two part series encounter of the annual Battle of the Bays on Flathead Lake.
RELATED ARTICLES PERTAINING TO POLSON GIRLS SOCCER
Bruce Kasnitz, “U14 girls capture state title,” Lake County Leader (27 June 2013) B1, B3
< http://www.leaderadvertiser.com/sports/article_3037177e-e043-11e2-b9da-0019bb2963f4.html >
Mark Robertson, “PHS girls soccer ready to play,” Lake County Leader (22 August 2013) B6
< http://www.leaderadvertiser.com/sports/article_81d07c80-0a8f-11e3-9bd6-0019bb2963f4.html >
Court Weston, “CLASS A SOCCER PREVIEW - Reloaded Whitefish boys still the team to beat,” Missoulian (Sat. 31 August 2013) D5
< http://missoulian.com/sports/high-school/soccer/class-a-soccer-reloaded-whitefish-boys-still-the-team-to/article_6ae74686-120d-11e3-88b3-001a4bcf887a.html >
Commentary on various players has been drawn from the author’s own observations integrated with input provided by head coach Michael Hewston along with MYSA Spring Soccer coaches Heidi Howell and Bruce Kasnitz. The writer is indebted to the input of Heidi Howell for insights pertaining to some of the players she has coached.
Season soccer statistics 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, giving different credit(s) or providing additional information. In some cases, bits of information not found elsewhere were gleaned from data mentioned in the weekly write-ups featured in the Lake County Leader, Valley Journal or other weekly like the Bigfork Eagle. In other cases, the records kept by the coaching staff were consulted to straighten out conflated or incorrect goal/assist credits.
Keeper stats on Monica Cleveland and Keely Clairmont were tabulated from daily newspaper game summaries featured in the Missoulian as well as Daily InterLake