With a host of returning talent and a great mix of young players, the Columbia Falls girls soccer team should be in the thick of the Class A postseason this year.
The team has 16 returning varsity players, including all-conference players Kaylee Ashe and Kyla Johnston and all-state forward Hannah Gedlaman.
Johnston anchored the defense last season and Ashe and Gedlaman were the team’s leaders on offense.
Coach O’Brien Byrd has the sights set high for the ladies.
“Our goal is to get to the state championship game,” he said.
This year, Byrd and a host of assistant coaches will guide the girls and boys squads. Byrd likes the team’s depth. They have a solid bunch of starters and a deep bench.
“Every one of them could start,” he said.
This squad also has some young talent in Lakia Hill, a freshman who knows how to put the ball in the back of net. Josie Windauer, who started as a freshman last year on offense, moves to defense. They’ll also look for good things from midfielders Katy Garate, Hannah Callender and Kailey Schrader, to name a few.
Madeline Jarvis will return as the team’s keeper.
The girls were 7-5-1 overall last year and were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by longtime rival Billings Central.
In the conference, look for Polson and Whitefish to be tough again this year.
Building for the future, the junior varsity squad has a full roster — all of them freshmen. The junior varsity team is coached by Lindsey Henning. Henning is a former standout soccer player for the Wildkats and a paraeducator at the high school.
Byrd is assisted by his wife, Melanie, Kelsey Russo, Thomas Clark and Kristiana Konkol. Konkol played college ball for UCLA.
The girls open their season on the road against Bigfork Aug. 31. Their first home game is Sept. 2 against Frenchtown.