By Peter Manka EBS Contributor
KALISPELL – The Big Sky Football Club U12 girls’ soccer team played its inaugural season in the Montana Youth Soccer Association traveling league this spring. The season culminated June 6-7 with the State Showcase Tournament in Kalispell, where the Miner girls took third place.
The season that began in late April posed significant challenges with rain or snow at nearly every practice and game. The team traveled throughout western Montana playing a 16-game schedule, including two tournaments.
At the state tournament, the Miner girls’ first game in group play pit them against Missoula’s Ravalli United, a team that matched them well in two previous games earlier in the season, with each squad winning a game. The Miners dominated ball possession with tight passing and organization, and took twice as many shots as Ravalli. Despite controlling much of the game, the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Big Sky played Helena’s Arsenal Gold team in the second group play game. The Miners again controlled possession and finally broke through with a scoring barrage at the end of the first half. They continued the pressure in the second half en route to a 4-1 victory.
At the end of group play, the Miners were tied with Ravalli United in record, goal differential, and all subsequent tie-breaking categories. This set up a penalty shootout at high noon on Sunday, with a spot in the championship game on the line. The teams met on the pitch under the blazing northwest Montana sun, trading bullets at the opposing keepers, but Ravalli United emerged victorious by one goal.
Despite the setback, the Miner’s performance in group play earned them a spot in the third place match. They faced an inspired Helena Arsenal side that landed the initial blow with a quick strike from inside the box. The Miners regained their composure and reasserted their passing game, soon tying the game and taking a 1-1 draw into halftime.
In the second half, the Miners’ continued pressure created numerous opportunities resulting in several quick goals. The defense was unwavering in the second half as they shut out the Arsenal attack, cementing a 7-1 victory and the bronze medal at the State Showcase Tournament.
The Miner boys’ team went 1-1 in group play during the tournament, and ultimately were bounced by Livingston FC in the semifinals.
“[The Miner boys] have improved in huge strides this year, from the beginning of the season to where they finished this year,” said Head Coach Koy Hoover, noting they brought home a silver medal from the Missoula Memorial Cup earlier this spring.
In their first season as an all-girls team, the lady Miners made a strong showing for the Big Sky Football Club. Krisy Hammond, Katie Alvin, and Michelle Horning managed the team coached by Jaci Clack, and the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation supported the team with tournament and league expenses, as well as providing new regulation-sized goals for the Big Sky Community Park fields.
Peter Manka is an assistant coach for the Big Sky Football Club U12 girls’ soccer team.