Valks soccer hoping to grow after narrow playoff miss

For the Eagle | August 19, 2020 1:00 AM

The Valkyries soccer team will be looking for continued improvement this season, coming off a 2019 campaign that saw them narrowly miss the playoffs.

Bigfork lost eight players from last year’s squad that went 2-10 overall and 2-6 in conference play, missing the playoffs by a single game.

According to second-year head coach Tim Guenzler, more than half of his 2020 squad will be freshmen with a handful of juniors and one senior to provide veteran leadership.

“We are young, but we should be one of the more athletic teams in the conference. Our main problem early will be our lack of experience, but we should be dramatically better by the end of the year,” he said. “We want to get our younger players some experience in those first few games of the season so they can use their athleticism to build their skills early on.”

Guenzler’s squad, which began practicing Friday, returns five starters from last year’s team, including senior All-Conference Second Team selection and leading scorer Audrey Buenz as well as Brette Guenzler, another All-Conference Second Team performer.

Also returning will be 2019 starters Scout Nadeau and Nya Schara while Ashlyn Savik will begin the season on the sidelines coming off knee surgery. Soraya Brevik, who saw significant minutes off the bench last season, also returns from last year’s team.

With the threat of COVID-19 looming like a dark cloud over the season, coach Guenzler says he and his squad will approach this year with a one-day-at-a-time mentality.

“I am just thankful for every day we get on the field,” he said. “Being able to get out there is such a big part of the mental health picture for all of these kids and I think there is a much bigger appreciation this year for even being able to practice as a team and have everyone be among their friends.”

The Valkyries are scheduled to open the season with a tough test at home Aug. 29 as they host the Lady Bulldogs of Whitefish.

“Whitefish is very experienced and, in my opinion, one of the favorites to win the conference along with Columbia Falls,” Tim Guenzler said about the matchup. “They are always one of the top three or four teams in the state. It will be a baptism by fire for our young team.”

Other home games this year include matchups with Corvallis Sept. 5 and Libby Sept. 19 before the Valkyries celebrate Homecoming against Polson Sept. 24.

The girls wrap up the regular season at home Oct. 10 as they celebrate Senior Night against Columbia Falls.

While the Valkyries will field a young team this season, coach Guenzler says he is looking for continued improvement.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm and the girls have worked really hard. This is a very competitive and athletic group and I am excited to see what they are able to accomplish this season,” he said. “We would really like to take that next step and make the state tournament this year. Beyond that, we just want to keep the advancement of this team moving forward.”