TRACK AND FIELD
TRACK AND FIELD
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POLSON LADY PIRATES STATE PLAYOFF PREVIEW
October 17, 2013Northwest Montana A Conference
2013 Girls Soccer State A Playoff Preview:
Northern A Polson Lady Pirates
by John Heglie
As the 2013 rendition of the Northern A 3rd-seeded Polson Lady Pirates (6-5-1) embark upon their pursuit of postseason playoff prospects, there is bound to be some lack of familiarity around prep soccer circles with the complexion of this team out of northwestern Montana. Consequently, a cursory attempt will be made to bridge this gap in information by unscrambling the mix of personell with a rubric that resembles how one might go about plucking letters out of a bowl of alphabet soup in order to apply some structure to what would otherwise be a swirl of illegible ingredients.
FARMING THE FRAY BY MEANS OF QUADRUPLE H:
Many readers will likely be familiar with the agriculturally oriented youth organization with its four leaf clover insignia entitled 4-H, which stands for head, heart, hands, and health. Its motto of "to make the best better" or its slogan "learn to do by doing" carries crossover applications onto any soccer pitch. Only in the case of the Lady Pirate version of this 4-H acronym, the letters elicit different content more along the lines of heed, harrass, hamper, then halt. Such orientations tend to be more akin to a logo featured on some soccer attire such as, “Forget about it Princess, even Cinderella isn’t getting to this ball!”
The senior member of the H quartet is track & field twice all-conference, state-qualifying discus hurling defender Amanda Harrod, who has a penchant for being one of the staunchest defenders on the pitch when it comes to disrupting ball movement or intercepting an encroaching opponent. An apt illustration of some of her capabilities was illustrated by her impeccable sense of timing in the waning minute of a pending shutout earlier this season when she deflected the ball out of harms way of what would have otherwise resulted in an uncontested goal opportunity by their opponent.
At the younger end of the spectrum of the H quartet are freshman defenders Olivia Hewston and Hannah Hobbs (1 assist). Both were acknowledged as having “played with composure beyond their years” in the daily newspaper writeup of the scoreless tie that the Lady Pirates forged with the host Columbia Falls Wildkats, the tightest contest in a half dozen years. This dynamic duo have played together for a number of years so that their familiarity with reactions to developing scenarios tends to complement the play of the other, allowing them to skillfully anticipate sealing off potential gaps that might otherwise breach their defensive front.
Last but not least to be taken into consideration among this quartet is all-state, all-conference junior midfielder Sarah Howell, the “Belle of the Ball” for the team who exhibits superb ball control skills along with exceptional field awareness. This being her second foray into the playoffs, she is unlikely to misplace her glass slipper when it comes to the prospect of playing on a postseason pitch. For the benefit of followers of Billings area soccer, Howell is the one of the siblings of Nick Howell, who plays for the Rocky Mountain College Battlin Bears collegiate club.
A FISTFUL OF M&M’s:
Much like the candies of the same description, the Lady Pirates feature a quartet of their own version of M&M’s with their own distinct flavors comparable to plain, peanut, pretzel or peanut butter that coincide along with their own assortment of colorful personalities. There will be little sugar coating associated with the level of competition coming from this bunch of players who are not prone to melt under the heat of competition.
Senior midfielder/defender Monica Cleveland (MHSA career - 2 goals, 4 assists) is a tough as nails competitor, whether waging battle on the offensive or guarding her turf against encroachment at the defensive end. Cleveland was the team goalkeeper much of her prep career, amassing in the neighborhood of 200 saves according to daily newspaper accounts. Consequently, this Lady Pirate is adept at coordinating defensive adjustments. In many ways, this M&M could be likened to the Greek mythological character Pandora. By analogy, now that she has been released from the confines of the box that held her in check for so long, the capabilities of Cleveland have now been turned loose to reek havoc upon opponents on the pitch.
Another M&M to reckon with is “the Force” of “Fab Five,” otherwise known as senior defender Melina Jore. Some caution is to be exercised about not blurring genres when making distinctions between this Lady Pirate MJ and the MJ associated with being a significant other of Peter Parker of Spiderman renown. But one thing they might as well hold in common would be a comparable version of that tingling spider sense which Jore seems to display with her knack for heading off trouble before it can gain much traction.
Sophomore defender Mollie Lemm tends to be primarily deployed at the defensive end, but her rotational portfolio also includes offensive opportunities where she has unleased a handful of shots-on-goal. Based upon sheer mathematical probability, Lemm is due to deliver on one of those sometime soon should a quality touch drift her way since she came very close to converting one of those earlier in the season.
The final member of the M&M quartet is all-conference junior defender/striker Linnea Madsen, whose touches could be likened to how some types of lightning tend to unfold. By comparison, such atmospheric disturbances may appear to lie almost dormant during the course of a thunderstorm weather pattern, but then suddenly strike with a flash with little warning.
DOUBLE S SENSATIONAL SUBSTITUTES:
As starting defenders need to be spelled for a breather, the Lady Pirates can call upon a pair of double S dynamic duo defensive backups comprised of sensational freshman substitutes Sophia Sisler and Dayne Smith. Much like Hewston and Hobbs, Sisler and Smith are capable of filling in and performing at levels that exceed ordinary expectation for those of their prep status.
When the Lady Pirates embark upon the offensive, they can exercise a multitude of options, some of which may unfold in coinciding alphabetical fashion.
DOUBLE K CLOBBERING CAPABILITY:
The provocative play of softball 14U ASA state champion senior midfielder/striker Kyrie Bitterman (1 goal, 5 assists) has a tendency to have a souring affect upon those who attempt to tangle toes with this player.
The swooping-like vectors sometimes associated with the tack of attack taken by junior midfielder/striker Keely Clairmont (4 goals, 2 assists) could be likened to those of a kestrel on account of the phonetic alliteration of this raptor renowned for its unrelenting pursuit of its prey as it trains its talons upon the tail feathers of its quarry. Clairmont filled in as keeper of the box late last season, turning away106 shots at the goal while notching 72 saves in relief of an arm injury to Cleveland, providing her with a sharp eye for defensive intervention.
T TIMES TWO TANDEM TROUBLE:
One means by which the Lady Pirates might be inclined to T’s their opponents to the point of torment is by throwing the likes of freshman striker Tiara Duford (2 goals, 3 assists) or sophomore midfielder/striker Tessa Nunlist (2 goals) at them. Much like in the Terminator movie titles abridged to the mere letter of T this or that, these Lady Pirate T’s will be back irrespective of how many times opponent defenders seek to deny them access to their target. Nunlist embarked upon the season highly conditioned from participation in a week long Cycle Greater Yellowstone bike tour covered a total of 460 miles with elevation fluctuations of 18 thousand feet.
INFLUX OF FOREIGN FLAVORING:
The Lady Pirates derive benefit from an infusion of imported talent that complements their corps. Adding some European flavor to the Polson Lady Pirate recipe is Swedish junior striker Ebba Hakansson (1 goal, 1 assist) and German junior midfielder/striker Laura Baehrs.
KEEPER OF THE CORRAL:
The keeper skills of freshman goalkeeper/midfielder Jenna Evertz were of sufficient quality at the beginning of the schedule that she was platooned in relief of veteran keeper Cleveland the first half of her inaugural season. Evertz took over the reins full time just before the midpoint of the regular campaign, where she has proved herself a formidable obstacle for defenders to get past time after time. Evertz has accrued 79 saves thus far this season, a substantial reduction in cumulative numbers intercepted by the keeper from years past which used to average well into the hundreds, credit for which falls upon her dynamic defensive backline that has reduced the ratio significantly.
ROUNDING OUT THE ROSTER ROTATION:
Rounding out the Lady Pirate roster is a collection of more seasoned freshmen, many whose chronological student-age status may rate them as underclassmen, but whose soccer IQ in many cases gravitates closer to that associated more typically with more experienced upperclassmen. These include striker Hannah Kasnitz (3 goals), midfielder/striker Camas Renault (1 goal), defender/striker Alana Fox, midfielder/striker Breyland McColl, defender/striker Whitney Barr and midfielder/striker Kiana Snyder. Managerial and logistical support is coordinated by sophomore team manager Sheridan Houle (2012 - 1 goal, 1 assist).
POSTSEASON PLAYOFF PICTURE PROGNOSIS
With their last postseason appearance stemming from the 2011 season, it would seem to be a stroke of misfortune that the Lady Pirates should draw in their opening round the sole undefeated team with the best record in the state in the form of Billings Central. As if that weren’t enough, one can add further layers of intimidation in that the Lady Rams also happen to be the five time defending state champions who have compiled an 86-1 record since 2008. Tabulated from newspaper accounts, their leading scorer Allie Lucas also happens to be the overall Class A leading scorer with 30 goals to her credit, a mere half dozen shy of the entire Lady Pirate season output as a team. Lower-seeded teams tend to come up short against higher-seeded teams. Undefeated teams tend to prevail over teams with losses. Based upon the above mentioned criteria, it comes as little surprise that odds makers should favor Billings Central to prevail over Polson in this contest.
But before leading the horses back to the barn, other factors merit being taken into consideration. Despite the seeming disparity on the surface, such games are played for several other laudable reasons. Otherwise the perceived underdog would likely elect to just stay at home so they could save the expenditure of time and effort, while schools could salvage costs for lodging and gasoline by just conceding to the favored team the alleged inevitable outcome of a contest. At the other end of the spectrum that validates the playing of so-called predictable outcomes reside the annals of history that are riddled with stories of inspiration about how an underdog ended up prevailing over a highly favored opponent. NCAA college basketball has coach Jimmy Valvano’s 6th-seeded NC State Wolfpack with its 10 defeats prevailing 54-52 over top-ranked Houston’s “Phi Slamma Jamma” for the 1983 national championship. Hockey has the "Miracle on Ice" when TEAM USA, comprised of amateur and collegiate players, defeated a seemingly-invincible Soviet team, which had won nearly every world as well as Olympic championship since 1954, for the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, NY. Among other stories of triumph over great odds, the Bible tells of a shepherd boy David, drawing strength from his religious faith, taking down the mighty Philistine giant Goliath with a medium-sized rock slung from a sling.
The Lady Pirates are under no illusions that they have their work cut out for them if they want to make their playoff run a contest. The team will need to play at a level comparable to if not higher to the scoreless match they forged against the Columbia Falls Wildkats earlier this season, a team that played for the state championship last year. Polson should also aim to play close to flawless soccer to pressure a team of the caliber of Billings Central. Players will want to synchronize with each other to minimize opportunities that their opponent can exploit while also capitalizing upon their own windows of opportunity that will likely be few and far between. Nervous energy will need to be harnessed so that those butterflies fly in formation to invigorate their quality of play on the pitch.
Elsewhere around the region, the 2nd-seeded Columbia Falls Wildkats (7-2-3) travel to Hamilton with hopes of reining in the Southern A top-seeded Lady Broncs (11-0-1) by keeping them penned up in the corral. Junior tandem Haley Purdy and Lindsay Strouse are the top Kats that make the loudest meows with a combined 19 goals and 7 assists shared between them. Hamilton counters with junior Bri Huggans and senior Sami Kratofil, who have tallied a collective 30 goals and 13 assists between them. Closer to home, the top-seeded Whitefish Lady Bulldogs (10-2-0) play host to the Eastern A 3rd-seeded Livingston (Park) Lady Rangers (2-7-3). Those who have done the loudest barking for Whitefish this season are frosh phenom Haley Nicholson and sophomore Anna Peterson, who share a collective 25 goals and 16 assists between them. Lady Ranger top marksgals entail junior Ariona Brown, senior Kasey Anderson and sophomore Maggie Burkhardt, who share 9 goals between each other. Key to most playoff games is the generic rubric “survive and advance.” When the tufts of turf settle and the final buzzer has sounded, the Northern A Conference soccer fan base will eagerly await the outcome of how their teams have fared against some of the best in the state. Good luck Lady Pirates, Lady Bulldogs and Wildkats. Represent your conference well!
Stat data derived cumulative totals cited on NWMTA website