Whitefish Bulldogs head coach John Lacey knew the first conference match of the season against cross-valley rival Columbia Falls would be a test for his team.
“It’s always a tough match when we play them,” Lacey said ahead of Thursday’s game.
The gamed played to his expectations as the teams battled to a 1-1 draw in smoky conditions on Sept. 17. Both teams entered the game undefeated so far in the season, with three wins each under their belts.
“I think Columbia Falls is vastly improved,” Bulldogs coach John Lacey said. “Far and away, they’ve given us our most difficult matches in recent years.”
Whitefish started off the action, with senior Marvin Kimera scoring his first goal of the season in the 8th minute with an assist from senior Brandon Mendoza. The Wildcats answered when sophomore Walt Nichols managed to get through the Bulldogs defense and fire a shot past keeper Will Peppmeier in the 20th minute.
The score stayed there for the remainder of the game even as the action ratcheted up. The Bulldogs stayed true to their brand of aggressive offense and took 18 shots on goal, forcing Wildcats keeper Bryce Dunham to stay engaged. At the other end of the field, Peppmeier got his first test of the season with eight saves.
In the girls match, it was again a clash of three-win teams, but Whitefish was able to hold the Wildkats scoreless to remain undefeated with their 1-0 victory.
Sophomore forward Brooke Roberts scored the lone goal for Whitefish, with an assist by junior Sophie Olson.
The Wildkats outshot the Bulldogs with 16 attempts to get on the board, but seven shots were off frame and senior keeper Sami Galbraith made nine saves en route to her second shutout of the season.
During the 2019 state tournament, both the Wildkats and the Bulldogs made it to the semifinals, while the Columbia Falls boys were knocked out in the first round. Lacey points to the success of both teams as a testament to how strong soccer is throughout Flathead Valley.
“I fully expect our soccer up here in the north to have a say in what happens during the state tournament,” Lacey said. “And that means us and that means Columbia Falls.”
In Libby, Polson swept their doubleheader against the Loggers. The boys made it a shutout 6-0, with junior Kaden Nelson scoring four of his team’s goals.
In the girls match, the Loggers put up two goals, but still lost 6-2. Polson’s senior Kyla Heiser scored her first two goals of the season, the second time assisted by her freshman sister, Myranda.
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