Wildkats win pair to clinch conference title

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  • Sydney Mann moves the ball up the field against Whitefish’s Grace Benkelman. (Jeremy Weber/Hungry Horse News)

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    Maddie Robison

  • Sydney Mann moves the ball up the field against Whitefish’s Grace Benkelman. (Jeremy Weber/Hungry Horse News)

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    Maddie Robison

The Wildkats will be entering the Class A soccer playoffs as the top seed from the Northwest Conference for the second straight season after picking up home wins over Whitefish and Polson last week.

The Kats secured their second consecutive conference title with two games remaining in the regular season after a 3-0 win over Whitefish Tuesday followed by a 2-1 victory over Polson Thursday.

The Kats took both regular season matchups with the Bulldogs as they defeated Whitefish 4-3 Sept. 3 but looked dominant in their matchup last week.

“Last time we played them, we played a more offensive style of game and we gave up three goals. Whitefish is a very skilled and technically talented team and they are hard to compete with for possession. This time, we made some adjustments and we were able to shut them out,” Wildkat head coach Thomas Clark said.

Josie Windauer scored all three goals for the Kats on assists by Sydney Mann, Maddie Robison and Cheyanne Johnston-Heinz as keeper Ave McDonald and the Wildkat defense kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard.

“Josie was under a lot of pressure acting as our lone striker. She had grown a lot as a player over the last few years and she was able to focus and get the job done. She is a lethal finisher,” Clark said. LaKia (Hill) and Alexis (Green) did a lot of work having to shift back and forth at midfield and Cheyanne and Sydney have to make the move from strikers to midfielders against a team like Whitefish. It’s a ton of running for them and Robison and we did a tremendous job.

Columbia Falls put 16 shots on goal in the contest to Whitefish’s eight, all of which were saved by McDonald.

The Kats overcame a slow start Thursday, using a Hill goal in the 74th minute to get past Polson, 2-1.

Columbia Falls jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Windauer 36 minutes in, but Polson answered two minutes later as McDonald was pulled out of position and Sophia Moderie was able to find the net to tie the score.

Both teams struggled to score in the second half, but Hill’s goal with four minutes remaining was the difference.

“It’s hard to bounce back from an emotional game like Whitefish and recharge the batteries to face a Polson team we had already beaten earlier this season,” Clark said. “Those types of games can me tough and we showed a lot of resolve to overcome that to get the win.”

The Kats were able to outshoot Polson 29-11 in the win, but Polson keeper Jalynn Farmer finished the night with 27 saves. McDonald finished with 11.

On Tuesday, the Kats beat Bigfork, 7-0.

The Kats will face the third seed from the Southern A Conference in the first round of the playoffs next weekend. As of Tuesday morning, Stevensville held that spot, but the Yellowjackets could move into second with a win over Loyola Tuesday night.

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