TRACK AND FIELD
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Fall 2011 Girls Soccer Preview: Northern A Polson Lady Pirates
September 2, 2011Northwest Montana A Conference
Fall 2011 Girls Soccer Preview: Northern A Polson Lady Pirates
by John Heglie
Similar to that of the previous season, the 2010 Lady Pirates posted a semi-respectable 1-2-1 record against nonconference opponents with a convincing win over Corvallis and a scoreless tie against Livingston (Park). In conference play, they actually improved from the previous season by not only netting a conference win against Bigfork on the road, but also remained in contention for the third and final playoff slot until the final week of the regular season
class of 2010 Soccer graduates:
The class of 2010 graduated eight seniors from the soccer program that accounted for three-quarters of the team scoring. They include:
Two-time all-conference wing Sarah Devlin (2010 - 5 goals, 3 assists; 08-10 career - 10 goals, 3 assists) was often likened to a human highlight reel, an Energizer Bunny or a pitbull on wheels because of her capacity to seemingly keep going and going. The passion and enthusiasm so clearly evident that she brought to the game by the energy she expended on the field will be missed by those who view the games from the stands, for Devlin always made her handling of the ball an event to behold no matter whether her team was in contention to win or changing the outcome of the game was out of reach given the time that remained.
All-conference goalkeeper Jacie Morrison was the chief guardian of the net for a trio of seasons and substituted at that position in a backup capacity her freshman year as well. Morrison made over 144 saves last season and her overall prep career save tally exceeds 407 without taking into account some unreported data from road games, making her an ideal candidate for an Allstate Insurance agent someday because of her good hands. Cumulatively she defended the box against over 675 shots being taken on goal over the four year span of her prep career, causing one to ponder why she didn’t suffer any ill effects from some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from being shot at so many times. It comes as no small wonder that after severely challenging the goalkeeping skills of Jacie in their game on the road against Polson last Fall, the Whitefish coaching staff commented after the game that Morrison was the best goalie they had faced all season. When a soon-to-graduate player receives a comment of that magnitude at the end of her senior year in what could have been one of her last competitive soccer matches, it is encouraging to hear that someone as talented as Jacie Morrison is extending her soccer career at the collegiate level in the capacity of a backup goalkeeper for the Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears of Billings. Those who wish to follow the progress of her team through the season may begin to trace their game results beginning at the following website: < http://www.rocky.edu/athletics/womens/soccer/ >.
Midfielder Reegan von Wildenradt (2010 - 4 goals, 5 assists; 08-10 career - 8 goals, 6 assists; 1 hat trick) had a quick step and knew how to guide the ball between the posts of the net, a knack that paid off dividends several times during her career. She was the second-leading scorer for her team and secured a place on the bottom rung of the TOP TEN for assists at the close of last season. The hat trick she scored would also merit being viewed as one of the highlights of her senior season.
Wing Jordan Hinshaw (2010 - 3 goals, 2 assists; 08-10 prep career - 4 goals, 3 assists) missed part of her last two seasons due to injury and would have made a lot more noise among the stats had she been healthy the duration of both campaigns. Hinshaw demonstrated an uncanny ability to deceptively accelerate on the soccer pitch, sometimes fooling those covering her by how quickly she could reverse direction.
Midfielder/striker Laura Rost (2010 - 4 goals, 1 assist) injected valuable senior leadership into the team dynamics last season and her exposure at the AA level prior to relocating to Polson prove to be an indispensable asset.
Wing Katie Finley had good foot speed for marking her assignments that was likewise reflected in the sprint and running events she participated in during track season.
The departure of defenders Molly Ricketts and Rainee Vassar creates crucial vacancies in the Lady Pirate lineup that will not be easy to replace. Vassar was adept at clogging passing lanes as well as disrupting ball handlers. Ricketts made a stellar defensive play in the contest with Bigfork that held playoff implications when she deflected away a reloaded second shot opportunity directed at the Polson goal to keep the Lady Pirates in striking distance.
The services of senior striker Kendra Poole will also be unavailable this season as she opted to loosen the knots of what would have been a tightly compacted schedule to concentrate on coursework and scholarship applications when not pursuing other interests that tend to take the back shelf during a sport season.
2011 lady pirate varsity soccer roster
Despite having to fill significant vacancies in their lineup, the 2011 rendition of the Lady Pirates return a solid core of veteran players infused with new talent that hold promise for building upon the foundation laid last season as they seek to make incremental improvements in the win-loss column. The team will be led by a trio of co-captains who could aptly be designated as the “Three M & M’s” since each has their own colorful personality and they’re not prone to melt under the heat of competition, even though there is little sugar coating about the level of intensity with which they play soccer.
Two-time all-conference senior striker/midfielder and team co-captain Madeline Hewston (2010 - 2 goals; overall - 7 goals, 1 assist) is the most decorated Lady Pirate returning to the roster. Hewston has both wheels and stamina, having seriously challenged the 20 minute barrier as a cross country runner her freshman year and knows how to pick up the pace, evident from the running events she participates in during track season.
Senior striker and team co-captain MaKenzie Wegner (2009 - 3 goals) sustained a knee injury last Fall that kept her off the soccer pitch the duration of the season, where she adapted to an unfortunate turn of events by making lemonade out of her lemons by functioning as the team manager. Over the Spring soccer season she wanted to try a new position, so her U18 co-ed coach Jess Kittle obliged by putting put her in at stopper, where she quickly adapted to the position. “Her speed and field awareness really strengthened our defense on the Spring team,” observed Kittle. Having depleted the Dairy Queen treats she accrues as a reward from family when she scores a goal because she was idled last Fall, defenders should be wary as Wegner approaches their goal, for she will be intent upon building up her ice cream reserve for later consumption. One would be ill advised to underestimate the power of a tasty DQ treat to inspire one to perform the unexpected.
Senior defender and team co-captain Marisa “Mo” Binder (2009 - 1 goal, 1 assist) has a good field sense as well as great intercept speed which makes her an indispensable asset at her position. Ball handlers for the opposition may be in for a few surprises when they tangle with Binder, for just when they think she may have been adequately contained, purple & gold fans are aware that at just such junctures, one is liable to witness a little mohe (more using NY dialect) coming from Mo.
Senior striker/midfielder Brynn Rowley (2010 - 3 goals) has been acquiring a knack for anticipating where to be at the right time, becoming one of the leading scorers for the team with put back goals and her handling of crosses. Rowley is a reliable dribbler when it comes to making quality one-two passes with a teammate as they attempt to push the ball up the field.
Senior wing/defender Jaime Young is a smart player who is rarely caught out of position and can make adjustments well. “Young can always be counted to play quality time wherever you put her on the field,” observes her Spring soccer coach Jess Kittle. Her touches on the ball and passing have vastly improved over the course of the past year. Her Fall soccer coach Michael Hewston commented that Young is a player who rises to the occasion as well as is patient with the delay. In the team’s first games of the season, she did not get beat while she held opposing players to the line who attempted to advance the ball.
Senior wing/striker Annie Venters (2009 - 1 assist) returns to the Lady Pirate roster after spending a year abroad as an foreign exchange student in South America. If Venters is observed going airborne in an effort to evade a defender, it might not be an instance of showcasing some new Brazilian football technique she learned down in the southern hemisphere, but rather a putting to good use of some of the vaulting skills she acquired under the tutelage of her track & field pole vault coach Rob Kelley this past Spring.
Senior goalkeeper/striker Sara Robinson (2010 - 1 goal) had intended to manage exclusively from the sidelines last season, but the lure of the game drew her onto the pitch as a player at an early juncture in the schedule. This season she has raised the ante of involvment by taking on additional responsibility, placing herself right within the crosshairs of would-be scorers for the opposition by taking over the job of protecting the goal from ball encroachment where her long reach and quick reflexes are likely to prove quite beneficial as the season progresses. Early in the season it is evident that Robinson has risen to the occasion of nicely filling in for some big shoes that were left vacant by graduation.
Sophomore wing/defender Olivia Hart is a powerful kicker with good placement who is not intimidated by contact. It was not uncommon for Hart to be seen going toe-to-toe with boy players twice her size in 18U co-ed games this past Spring. “She would usually come away with the ball and they’d be scratching their heads wondering how they had their pockets picked,” observed her Spring soccer coach Jess Kittle in a quote cited in the Lake County Leader. She has become a vastly improved player who was fearless back on defense and showed a lot of fire as well as ability over the course of the season.
Sophomore defender Monica Cleveland is another dependable, solid player who is not intimidated or fearful about taking on a difficult assignment. Her 18U co-ed Spring soccer coach Jess Kittle pointed out that “she wouldn’t back down against the boys teams that we played against,“ displaying a level of confidence that in part can probably be attributed to having a brother in the household who would help sharpen such an attribute. Kittle further observed that, “Monica is a smart player who knows how to take the proper angle to cut off an attacker. She has the kind of speed that allows one to get up field and then recover back on defense.”
The 2011 rendition of the Lady Pirates will likely benefit from a bit of foreign flavor added to their soccer quisine with the introduction of a pair of foreign exchange students. Scandanavian junior defender Elin Persson from Sweden will introduce some European flair on defense. Infusing some added spicy flavoring onto the soccer pitch from south of the border will be senior striker Mariana Llaguno from Monterey, Mexico. Both come from soccer backgrounds that are anticipated to provide a boost to the overall competitiveness of the team.
An infusion of new talent being added to the Lady Pirate roster could aptly merit a triple F rating, not in the derogatory sense of the worst possible grade cubed or in triplicate, but as an acronym for the Fab Five Frosh given their solid work ethic and willingness to give everything they‘ve got. A quartet of them have participated for five years in the MYSA Spring soccer program which has accelerated their skill development.
Freshman striker/midfielder Sarah Howell was the leading scorer and assist leader for the past two spring soccer league seasons. She is efficient as well as effective at controlling the offensive end of the field while displaying an aptitude for being aware of what is developing around her at the same time. Howell is the younger sister of the last Lady Pirate to earn all-state accolades. Because she has been scrimmaging with one of the best since she was quite young, fans should not be surprised to witness a display of skill sets that sometimes seem disproportionate for someone just entering high school, such as one of the stronger kicks for her age group. Those in attendance at the soccer matches over the years may recall Sarah as being one of the young people intercepting errant kicks along the sidelines. The time has now dawned for her to take center stage on the soccer pitch itself as others field some of her kicks that might stray out of bounds.
Freshman wing/defender Linnea Madsen has good footwork, lots of endurance and understands the game well. Involvement playing bass guitar in a worship band provide her with a heightened sense of timing as well as rhythm that help one remain atuned to some of the subtle nuances associated with the flow of the game. She has learned that when one is able to accompany the efforts of teammates with a greater degree of harmony, more can be accomplished and the end result tends to be more appealing to the senses. Madsen and Howell are reputed to work well together with their one-two touches as they seek to maneuver the ball up the field.
Freshman wing/defender Grace Rehbein has spent a lot of time playing the position of fullback and controls her area well. Her coach observes that Rehbein has very good field sense and a heightened awareness of what is transpiring around her with her surroundings.
Freshman defender/goalkeeper Shannon “The Wall” McGinnis earned her nickname because those who attempted to advance the ball against her center defense likened the encounter to that of running into a brick wall. She has already demonstrated some diversity in her reputed defensive prowess by making 8 saves in a backup capacity as keeper the first game of the season. The most prudent course of action when approaching a player whose defense is so solid that it is likened to bumping into a wall is to make sure one avoids high velocity contact. For if an impact takes place, one’s vehicle is liable to get banged up from the encounter.
Wing/defender Keely Clairmont is a more recent devotee of organized soccer, but is an apt student of the game with the kind of aggressive streak that is an indispensible part of the formula for being a successful soccer player. When Clairmont is in pursuit of the ball, her focus bears a close resemblance to that of a bloodhound on the scent of its quarry.
Another newcomer to recently join the Lady Pirate roster is sophomore Tatyonna Fisher, who is fairly new to the sport of soccer, but is sufficiently athletic that she should nicely supplement some of the positions on the team once she becomes familiar with some of the offensive and defensive strategies that are part of the game. Her coach observes that she has an apptitude for learning quickly from her assessment of situations and demonstrates good instincts for rising to a challenge.
Season Analysis and prognosis
Head coach Michael Hewston, assisted by Jose Vicente Franco, embarks upon his third year at the helm of the Lady Pirates. The coaching staff are optimistic as they enter the start of the 2011 soccer campaign. The players are all healthy. They look good in practice, are communicating with one another and have been coordinating fairly well for this early juncture of the season. Such characteristics provide indications that the Lady Pirates will field a team with a competitive edge as they enter the upcoming season.
One area that merits attention will be for defenders to take more pressure off the Polson goalkeeper, thereby dropping the number of cumulative shots on frame heading toward the net down into double digit territory overall for the season. No matter how highly skilled a keeper might happen to be, when more than a century of shots are taken at any target as wide as the frame of a soccer goal, it is inevitable that a percentage of those are going to get by even the best among the best. Another area of focus that merits attention would be to reverse that pressure by applying it upon the other goal by taking more shots at their goalkeeper. It is difficult for any opposting team to find its rhythm when it is rocking back on its heels.
One trend that seemed to emerge last season was what could be described as the tale of two halves. The first half of the game the Lady Pirates were often able to hold their own shoulder-to-shoulder with teams that were playoff-bound. It wasn’t until the second half of the game that the opposition was able to gain separation in the scoring column. So another area of focus will be for the Lady Pirates to keep the pedal to the metal during the second half as well. The graduation of players like Lady Logger Jaime Gilden, the Libby golden girl who scored back-to-back 20+ goal seasons and accounted for at least 10 goals and 4 assists being scored against the Lady Pirates over the course of her prep soccer career alone, should make contending with this conference foe a little more manageable. But even when catching a break against one quality conference team such as the Lady Loggers, the Lady Pirates will still have to become more effective at neutralizing players like Danielle “DD (as in Doubly Dangerous)” Delventhal of the Columbia Falls WildKats or Miranda “Pitbull” Miller of the Bigfork Vals, if they want to unseat one of these playoff-bound teams from last year for a coveted postseason slot.
The Northern A conference has been so competitive in the last decade that it has fielded a team represented in the finals of the state championship for each of the past seven years. Perhaps worth noting is that some of the more seasoned players on the Lady Pirate roster have tasted the elixor of their own kind of success as part of the MYSA Spring Soccer 2007 State Cup Championship with the 14U Polson Tsunami. In 2009 some of these same players as well as others were part of another Polson Tsunami team that captured the U16 Select championship for Bracket A, beating tough teams from Missoula, Belgrade and Miles City. Given such experiences as part of the background of some of the more veteran personell, it would be a fair assessment to anticipate that once this team finds the right rhythm, the Lady Pirates have the capability of making some noise of a more upbeat musical variety than the Blues that reverberated in the air at the close of the final week of last season.
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 Jess Kittle and Heidi Howell. The writer is indebted to the input of Heidi Howell for insights pertaining to the incoming freshmen.
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, 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 a Lake County Leader or the Valley Journal article. In other cases, the records kept by the coaching staff were consulted to straighten out conflated or incorrect goal/assist credits.
Keeper stats on Jacie Morrison were tabulated from daily newspaper game summaries featured in the Missoulian as well as Daily InterLake. In some cases, bits of information were gleaned from statistical data mentioned in the weekly write-ups featured in a Lake County Leader or the Valley Journal article. The author is indebted to Livingston Enterprise sports reporter Tom Gersack for the recovery of some portions of the Park vs. Polson game data not reported locally.
In other cases for data pertaining to home games, eyewitness accounts were utilized.