Soccer

One Foot in Front for the Others

Columbia Falls' latest star, Maddie Robison, the all-time record holder for assists, constantly puts her teammates ahead of herself

By Micah Drew
Maddie Robison, #7, of the Columbia Falls Wildkats battles for the ball with Lily Tanko of the Bigfork Valkyries at Columbia Falls High School on Sept. 9, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

On Aug. 27, opening day for the Columbia Falls soccer season, Maddie Robison was a force on the field. Playing against Lone Peak, Robison found the back of the net four times. Despite accounting for half of the Wildkats’ scores that day, however, Robison’s most impressive stat was more understated.

Twice in the same game, Robison, a senior, sent passes to teammate Sydney Mann that ended up in the goal. Those two assists propelled her to the top of the all-time state list for most career assists, 48, breaking a 10-year all-class record set by Danielle Muri of Billings West. 

A week later, playing against Lockwood before a home crowd at Flip Darling Memorial Field, Robison added another assist (and three more goals), this one to teammate Cheyanne Johnston-Heinz, notching her 49th career assist and cementing her all-time lead in Montana history. 

Three weeks further into the season, Robison, a three-sport all-state honoree, sat on the bleachers at Flip Darling field ahead of a game against Libby, bedecked in her blue Columbia Falls jersey, number 7 emblazoned on her chest with her scarlet captain’s cuff around her bicep. 

The Wildkats (6-2-0) went on to blank Libby 10-0, with Robison contributing two goals in the opening 10 minutes along with two more assists, bringing her career total to 53 and counting. 

“It’s definitely not something I imagined myself doing when I was a freshman, but I ended up having teammates that can obviously finish off the passes that I give them,” Robison said ahead of the match. “It’s just a credit to our whole team of how good of a team we’ve become over the last few years.”

According to Wildkats coach Thomas Clark, this response is classic Robison. 

“In a nutshell, when she’s talking about her own individual accolades, she’s trying to deflect it onto her teammates,” Clark said. “I think it’s fitting that the most significant individual accolade that she’ll get is one that’s super interconnected to her teammates.”

That’s not to say that Robison’s other stats aren’t equally impressive — her 31 goals as a junior led Class A in 2020 and tied for third most in state history — but she doesn’t feel the need to be the center of attention. 

“I love passing to my teammates, I love seeing them score and I just love winning games with them,” Robison said. 

Maddie Robison, #7, of the Columbia Falls Wildkats plays in a game against the Bigfork Valkyries at Columbia Falls High School on Sept. 9, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

As a freshman, Robison, started on the varsity squad and “was honestly just terrified,” but it didn’t take long for her to get into her groove and contribute to an explosive Wildkat offense that featured Josie Windauer, who became the first Columbia Falls soccer player to move on to play at a Division I program in college. 

“It was all about building my confidence since then, and I still haven’t fully done that, so it’s been a process,” Robison said. 

That process is one Robison works to instill in her teammates as soon as they step onto the field as freshmen. 

“I tell them they’re on the varsity team for a reason, so you need to be confident in your ability,” she said. “It shows if you’re not confident and I’ve learned that with myself.”

Anyone watching the Wildkats on the field would be hard pressed to believe any single one of them lacks confidence in their ability. The team has blanked four opponents so far this season, outscored the rest by a combined 34 points, trailing only the other state semi-finalist teams from last year, and only seems to be getting more cohesive.

“The freshmen we have this year bring a lot to the table and we’ve really worked everything out and know who we are as a team,” Robison said. “The past couple games have been the most fun we’ve played so far.”

“She’s always had a leadership role and was instrumental in making a smooth transition for me to become head coach,” Clark said. “When your best is maybe the hardest worker out there, that permeates through the whole team and has this contagious effect.”

When Clark was a collegiate athlete, he spent his summers working with younger players at the Flathead Rapids summer camps. 

“When Maddie was a seventh-grader, I remember her playing with the boys. We were all watching this little girl destroy all the boys in these activities and you knew she was going to be a freak wherever she ended up playing,” Clark said. “I remember that and I’ll remember these years, and that I was lucky enough to get to coach that girl that was tearing everybody up.”

Maddie Robison, #7, of the Columbia Falls Wildkats works through Bigfork Valkyrie defenders at Columbia Falls High School on Sept. 9, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Correction: While Maddie Robison is still the all-time all-class assist leader, the record she broke was held by Zoie Althoff of Billings Central, who finished her career in 2019 with 49 assists. The MHSA record books have not been updated since 2018, accounting for the inaccuracy of the initial reporting.

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