The Wildkats soccer team battled fatigue, rain, cold and even hail over the weekend as they traveled to the eastern side on Montana to take on top-ranked Billings Central and Laurel.
The Kats jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead against Billings Central Friday, but gave up three unanswered goals to suffer their first loss of the season against the defending state champs.
“Billings is the best team in the state right now until proven otherwise,” head coach Thomas Clark said. “They just have a ton of talent.”
Josie Windauer scored the only goal of the contest for the Kats.
The Wildkats again took a 1-0 lead against Laurel Saturday as Columbia Falls matched up against the team that beat them in the playoffs last season.
In a wild finish, the Kats led 1-0 with under two minutes to play when a crossing kick was inadvertently deflected into the Columbia Falls goal by Kats defender Graceanne Sevesind to tie the game at one.
“Graceanne made the only play she could. They had a wide open forward if she doesn’t make a play on the ball,” Clark said. “A hundred times out of a hundred I would ask her to make a play on that ball. It was the right play, it just didn’t bounce the way we wanted it to.”
Windauer was fouled moments later to set up a 35-yard free kick by Maddie Robison. The kick bounced off the Laurel keeper’s hands and Windauer was able to put it in for the game-winning goal as time expired.
“Our plan for set pieces all season long has been to get the ball to the goal keeper’s hands and send our players at them,” Clark said. “It worked just as we planned. The keeper bobbled the ball and Josie was there to make the play.”
The Wildcat boys also made the trip, as they earned a 2-2 tie against Billings Central before falling to Laurel, 4-1.
“That trip takes a lot out of us. It’s a long trip and then we have to get off the bus and play. I was impressed that we were able to come from behind twice to get that tie,” head coach O’Brien Byrd said.
Both teams will be in action at Libby Thursday before hosting Bigfork for a Homecoming contest Saturday afternoon.