The Columbia Falls High School soccer season gets underway Thursday as both the boys and girls teams open the year at Polson.
The Wildkats are coming off a 2018 season which saw the team win a conference title over rival Whitefish before falling to Lauel in the state quarterfinals in the playoffs.
The Kats led Laurel 1-0 in that game, but would wind up falling to the eventual state runner up 2-1.
This year’s squad features three returning all-state players, including leading scorer Josie Windauer, a senior this year, along with fellow senior Flora Jarvis and sophomore Maddie Robison.
The team also returns eight All-Conference selections from a year ago. Windauer, Jarvis and Robison were First-Team selections, while Cheyanne Johnston-Heinz, LaKia Hill, Lexi Purcell and Graceanne Sevesind were on the Second Team. Ave McDonald was an Honorable Mention selection.
Under the leadership of new head coach Thomas Clark (who served as an assistant coach for the team last season), the Wildkats will once again be one of the favorites to win state in Class A this season.
The Kats open the season at Polson at 5 p.m. Thursday before taking to the road again Saturday to face Hamilton at 3 p.m.
The team will be back in the Flathead Valley Tuesday as they make the short trip to take on rival Lady Bulldogs in Whitefish at 4 p.m.
The boys team will once again be under the leadership of head coach O’Brien Byrd, who says his team has had a record number of players tryout this season.
The Wildcats are coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs by the narrowest of margins, falling to Polson in a playoff play-in game on penalty kicks.
The Cats will get their chance for revenge Thursday as they take on the Pirates in Polson at 7 p.m.
The Wildcats led the second-ranked pirates for most of that play-in game last season before the Pirates knotted the score at two. The score remained tied through two overtimes before Polson finally outscored the Cats on penalty kicks, 6-5.
The Wildcats graduated two of their three All-Conference players from last year’s team in John Gilk and Chance Adams but return All-State and All-Conference First Team goal keeper Story Stemborski.
This year’s squad will feature six other seniors, Seth Hoffman, Noah Golan, Cole Gasner, Reed Sandstrom, Mikey Tamburelli and Preston Trenerry.