Wildhorse Youth Soccer Association kicked off the competitive spring soccer season Saturday in Stevensville.
This years players are from Thompson Falls, Plains, St. Regis, Paradise, and Hot Springs who braved 20 mile per hour winds with starting temperatures hovering above freezing in a friendly match against Bozeman and a league match against Libby.
Only the under-17 aged team saw early season action as the younger teams won’t start the season until the 14th of this month.
The Wildhorse Stampede started with a friendly match against a relatively young Bozeman Blitzz team.
“The game was a cagey affair with both teams probing, trying to find an opening without committing too much to the attack at either end,” said Nick Lawyer President of the Wildhorse Youth Soccer Association.
“The Stampede had several well worked attacks through their play on the flanks, and had their first dangerous cross from Nathan McNulty. Ryan Schraeder was available at the far post but was unable to turn the effort on frame,” he explained.
The first goal came against the run-of-play in the 22nd minute of the game. A speculative shot from distance was saved by Stampede goalkeeper Wyatt Weyers, but the rebound slipped through his hand and trickled into the goal.
“Yea, Wyatt was a little frustrated by that goal. The moisture and cold temperatures make handling that type of shot difficult, and credit to Bozeman you can’t score if you don’t shoot.” said Lawyer.
“After the first goal Bozeman grew into the game more and had several long spells of pressure against the Stampede who were relieved to end the half only down a goal,” further explained Lawyer.
Lawyer went on to say by the second half, the Stampede were a new team and a tactical change to manage the wind generated much more dangerous play from forwards Kyran Kennison and Ryan Schraeder; however it was Emma Mortenson who had the best chance for the Stampede.
A well worked cross from Nathan McNulty was floated to the far post and Emma rose aggressively to meet the ball, but headed it just over the crossbar.
The flow of the game changed rapidly after a defensive foul in the box led to penalty for Bozeman, which was cooly converted. Down two goals the Stampede then started chasing the game and had to commit more numbers forward and despite a missed penalty of their own had several good chances left begging. Blitzz secured a third goal with a clinical counter attack.
The result in their second game was much more encouraging to the Stampede, as they played a short-handed Libby team to a 9-2 win.
Quick goals in the opening 10 minutes from Ryan Schraeder and Nathan McNulty had Stampede cruising, and by half they were up 7-2.
“By that point Libby was visibly tired. They played a very tough under-19 team earlier in the day and they were down to 10 players. That last 40 minutes of soccer can be a real challenge and credit to our kids who have worked hard on their fitness. Sure, the win feels good and it’s a great way to start our league play. We’ll see Libby again in the season and I have no doubt that they’ll be ready for us,” said Lawyer.
The match ended 9-2 and earned the Stampede a share of first place with Laurel Storm in under-17 to 19 Classic League play.
The Stampede will play in Stevensville on April 7, with games against both Hamilton and Stevensville.