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September 2, 2014
Northwest Montana A Conference


Fall 2014 Boys Soccer Preview: Northern A Polson Pirates

by John Heglie




Last season the 2013 rendition of the Polson Pirates (1-11, 1-7) had a rough go of the schedule, scoring the least amount of goals among any Class A team around the state while tying for the second most goals scored against them.  Highlights were a shutout over visiting Columbia Falls as well as the team establishing the lead in another game against Bigfork, but were unable to squelch the Viking attack.   Even though the outcome was a loss, Polson outshot Columbia Falls despite the game being on the road.   After analyzing two third of the games on their schedule last season, the opposing side averaged less than 9 shots on the frame of the Polson goal, such stinginess indicative that their team defense might call for some tweaking or other minor adjustments to bring those numbers down further, but nothing major would seem to be required there.  On the other hand, another quartet of games more closely resembled a version of target practice with sog numbers in the teens or twenties.  Regarding those games, the team will be making adjustments to plug the pores of those swiss cheese holes.

The Pirates graduated a pair of seniors from the squad in Jacob Raymond and wrestling all-state (5th 105 2011), twice all-conference (2nd 119 2012, 1st 105 2011)  defender Dylan Moll.   Raymond incurred a leg injury prior to the start of the season, so he stayed involved by finishing out the schedule as team manager.


2014 POLSON pirate soccer roster PLAYER PROFILES


Track all-conference (4th 4x100) senior midfielder Jonah Kasnitz (8g, 2a career) was the leading scorer for the team last season and the second leading scorer for the Pirates the season before.   A Montana United contributor, the further honing of Kasnitz’ skills are anticipated to translate into a bigger impact on the pitch his final prep season.  He came a mere one 100th of a second short of an all-conference acknowledgement in the 100 meter dash, indicative that he has good short distance interception speed.  Whitefish fans may recall Kasnitz as being the Polson player who almost knotted the score of the 2011 State A championship with what would have been the equalizer at about the 50th minute mark, but the shot recoiled off the left goalpost into the path of an awaiting Bulldog player who was able to clear out the threat.


Wrestling twice all-conference (4th 119, 2nd 98) and soccer twice all-conference senior midfielder Alex Helgeson (4g, 3a career) may have acquired the fortuitous nickname “Lucky” for other reasons, but his dual sport credentials suggest that now matters are influenced more by skill sets rather than good fortune.  He tied for second leading scorer on the team last season and third leading scorer the season before.  There is a saying that sometimes gets applied as a sports metaphor, “Better to be lucky than good,” but Helgeson has his feet straddling both aspects on account of the fact that he is both “Lucky” as well as good.


Senior midfielder Morgan Moll (3g career) found the title of “Captain” conferred upon him facetiously by upperclassmen early on during his freshman season on account of responsibilities associated with dispensing and monitoring team equipment as well as perhaps certain rumbling aspects about his style of play on the pitch, although allusions to a certain 17th century Welsh privateer of the Carribean renowned for his boon and barter in the beverage business cannot be entirely disregarded.  But what was once intended as facetious has now morphed into an official capacity in that Moll now represents the Pirates as one of their senior co-captains for the team.  Moll is a full-tilt hustler on the field who doesn’t back down from challenging plays and was one of only a trio of then-freshman-now-seniors to score a goal during his inaugural season with limited minutes on the pitch. He is also one of the more proficient executors on the team for attempting header goals.


All-conference senior midfielder/defender Spencer Raymond (1g) started out his prep career playing on the pitch mainly in a defensive capacity, but his long stride, speed and toe for the ball led to his inevitable integration into a larger roll in the Pirate offensive attack.  Raymond will likely straddle both sides of the pitch with one foot involved in the offense while the other seeks to disrupt attempts to advance of the ball against the Pirates.  Raymond is the other co-captain for the team whose goal last season came against Whitefish, a team that is renowned for having one of the more stingy defenses. 


At the goalkeeper position the Pirates have multiple options that they can exercise at their disposal and may be able to platoon different players as they seek to buckle down on basics by busting up booted blasts with one who battles the best at blocking within the box.  Senior goalkeeper/defender Trevor Basler is the most veteran of these, having accrued 71 saves last season after engaging around 115ish shot-on-goal attempts.   Freshman goalkeeper/defender Russ Smith is coming off a spectacular spring schedule with an outstanding performance in the State Cup in which he made diving save after diving save to keep his Polson FC squad within striking distance at securing coveted hardware.  Another option who could be called upon to contribute in front of the net would be freshman goalkeeper/striker Andrew Hanson, who was keeper of the corral for the U15 Missoula Strikers soccer squad this past spring.   The capabilities of these two newer members to the roster are such that they could spell relief for Basler to spin free for a little payback on the pitch himself by taking a few cracks at the opposing goalie after being shot at so many times last season.


Senior defender Rylee Andrews opted to diversify his athletic portfolio by shifting from Cross Country over to soccer his final prep season.  Andrews dropped minutes off his times as the

XC season progressed, paring his times down to around the 20 minute mark before finally cracking the barrier with a sub-20 toward the end of the season.  Such improvements are indicative of a level of endurance that should provide a boost to the Pirate prospects.


Wrestling twice all-conference (2nd 120, 4th 112) junior defender/midfielder Jaben Wenzel has been emerging as a premiere Pirate defender when it comes to disrupting the attack of opposing teams as they close upon the Polson net.


Junior striker/midfielder Sutton Kanta (1g, 1a career) has been becoming increasingly instrumental to the Pirate attack.  His first varsity goal resulted in Polson’s lone victory last season, stealing the ball from a defender, firing a shot that recoiled off the post which was then gathered in by another Pirate who passed it back over to Kanta for the game winner.


Sophomore midfielder/striker Mike Mercer has exceptional footwork for maneuvering the ball and just missed connecting on several opportunities last season. 


Junior midfielder/defender Dylan Cooper made measurable improvements in his mastery of the game, taking on a more expanding roll as the season progressed. 


Sophomore defender Sam Moll (approx 15 sog attempts, 7 saves) provided relief at the keeper position toward the first half of last season before injury limited the extent of further opportunities.


The 2014 rendition of the Polson Pirates soccer squad has a pool of other superb soccer contributors to draw from in sophomore midfielder/defender Emilio Hernandez, sophomore defender/midfielder Parker Hoxie, sophomore midfielder Adan Nielsen, sophomore midfielder/defender Ben River, freshman midfielder Linde Lambson and freshman midfielder/defender Michael Vergeront.   The incoming frosh were part of the U14 Polson FC 2014 State Cup champions this past spring. Lambson provided a crucial header pass in the State Cup championship game that assisted in the game winning score while Smith locked out the opposing team from breaching the box with his keeper play.  Both Hanson and Vergeront are capable contributors who are offensively oriented to aid the array of any attack.


Another quartet of fresh feet wait in the wings to invigorate the Pirate lineup once further development of skill mastery align with further sharpening of their competitive edge.  These include freshmen midfielders Nate Goodrich, Alex Guerrero-Vaca, Alex Mausshardt and  Omar Perez-Carillo, the majority who were also part of the U14 Polson FC 2014 State Cup champions this past spring.  While currently listed among the junior varsity soccer roster, any of these players could see playing time at the next level should growth in their abilities to contribute warrant plugging them into varsity status  or injuries occur which open up vacancies.


Season Analysis and prognosis


Head coach Jess Kittle (2011 Coach of the Year) embarks upon his 10th season at the helm of the Pirates, aided by 8th year assistant coach Mike Moll and 2nd year volunteer assistant coach Spencer Kittle.  The task the lies before the current rendition of the Polson Pirates is fairly straightforward and measurable - score more goals while surrendering less.  There are several factors which weigh in favor of the Pirates successfully intervening on both sides of these considerations.  Foremost among them is that the team graduated only one playing senior, which means the returning squad not only has acquired an additional year of seasoning under their belts, but so many returnees lend to continuity among their team play that should translate into playing as a more cohesive unit.  Another aspect to be taken into consideration is that most of the other teams not only graduated a number of seniors, but those they graduated were significant contributors to the success of those teams.  In the case of games played against Polson, a significant proportion of the goals scored against the Pirates were tallied by these seniors.   Both Bigfork and Columbia Falls graduated seven seasoned seniors, Whitefish five and Libby four.  Ten of those were all-conference contributors, half of them all-state.  Of the goals scored by conference opponents against the Pirates, 10 were netted by all-conference seasoned seniors with a pair of those games hinging within a single score if the contribution of those players are factored out of the outcome.  Consequently, such factors would seem to provide indications that the stock of the Polson Pirates should be on the rise as long as the take care of the business that needs to be attended to.


The Polson Pirate boys soccer squad open their season with Eastern A road rumbles against Park (Livingston) and Belgrade the weekend of 5-6 September, followed by a Southern A swing through Frenchtown the following Thursday the 11th of September, followed by their first conference clash the Tuesday after that on the 16th of September in Whitefish.  Their first home game will be the battle of the bays against Bigfork on Thursday the 18th of September.




Vince River, “Polson U14 boys’ soccer brings home state cup,” Lake County Leader (Th. 19 June 2014) B3.

Vince River, “Polson FC U14 boys win state soccer championship,” Valley Journal (25 June 2014) p. 23.

CFalls - “Chris Peterson, “Wildcat soccer squad is young, inexperienced,” Hungry Horse News (Wed. 27 August 2014) .


Bibliographical acknowledgements


Season soccer statistics culled from the archives of the  Northwest Montana A Conference website < http://www.ihigh.com/nwmta >.

Adjustments of data tabulated from newspaper accounts courtesy of Polson head soccer coach Jess Kittle.



An abridged version of this article entitled “Northern A Polson Pirates” is featured in print with the Lake County LEADER (28 August 2014) B1-2. 

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