By Brandon Walker EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Fall marks the return to school and with it comes the fall high school athletics season. In a year complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Montana High School Association released guidelines for teams to return to play. Pandemic aside, the Lone Peak High School athletic programs are itching to get back on the field and court.
Varsity Girls Volleyball
One year removed from a strong, third place district tournament finish, the Lady Big Horns will return to action with a core senior group set to lead this year’s squad. Seven seniors, including Chloe Hammond, Ivy Hicks and Reilly Germain will lead the team, with junior TJ Nordahl and sophomores Jessie Bough and Maddie Cone rounding out the roster.
“This team’s greatest strength is their grit,” said Lady Big Horns coach Missy Botha. “They have passion and perseverance that will carry them through any tough match.”
The Lady Big Horns finished with an 11-4 regular season record a year ago. Losing only three athletes from that team, Botha believes this year’s group is poised to make the leap and possibly capture a district tournament championship.
“You are going to see more power in the front row led by sophomore Maddie Cone with Ivy Hicks calling the plays, and a dream team back row with Chloe Hammond as Libero,” Botha said.
LPHS will play their first match at home versus Absarokee on Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m.
Coming off a historic 2019 season when the Big Horns narrowly missed a playoff berth, the team has a younger blend of athletes this year. Many on this year’s team tasted the success of the previous year that resulted in a 3-5 record, including milestone victories for the program.
Coach Adam Farr believes speed and team chemistry will be the Big Horns greatest strength this season. Captains Pierce Farr, Isiah Holst and Aiden Miller will lead the 14-man squad.
Sophomores Farr and Holst will head the back field together this year. Farr gained experience a season ago, lining up alongside departed quarterback Frankie Starz, while Holst will enter his first season as the play caller.
The Big Horns had great turnouts at their summer workouts as anticipation mounts ahead of their first game action. Coach Farr hopes to see his team improve and grow throughout the season.
“The underclassmen in particular really pushed towards meshing and practicing and becoming better. More than I’ve ever seen in the past, so it bodes well for this season and the future,” he said.
The Big Horns will play their first contest on the road against Simms High School on Aug. 29.
Varsity Boys and Girls Soccer
For the first time in school history, LPHS will field both a boys and girls varsity soccer program. Anticipation is high as the teams gear up for their first game action representing their school.
“We have a whole lot more heart [and] a lot more gratitude going into this season,” said varsity girls coach Jaci Clack. “I think they’re pretty grateful that they’re even playing at all.”
The Class C Big Horns will compete at the Class A level of competition due to the lack of programs at lower levels.
“As students and athletes they’re going to learn to become better people playing this game and it’ll be one of those things that they get to look back on and know that, ‘hey, I was part of that program. I got to be the first team that played on that program,’” said varsity boys coach Tony Coppola.
Clack believes her team’s greatest strength will be their team chemistry. The 12-player team will be led by seniors Sara Wilson—coaches captain—and Della Levine. The players will elect a second captain by way of a vote at a later date.
“I’m excited and optimistic for this upcoming season,” Clack said. “With what I have seen so far on a whole—from commitment, from the effort, from the work that they have put in—it’s going to add up to something pretty amazing.”
Coppola hopes his 13 athletes will become closer as a unit while also growing as human beings. Coppola selected senior Evan Iskenderian as his choice for captain and the team will choose a second captain later in the week.
The Big Horn’s first two scheduled contests were canceled due to travel concerns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, nonetheless, Coppola believes his team is in high spirits and ready to play in a competitive environment.
“You can feel it, they’re ready to play,” he said. “They want to get out there.”
Speaking with resounding gratitude, he thanked the Big Sky community, the school district, the community park for hosting the teams and everyone that has helped make the soccer program a reality.