Bigfork soccer, volleyball, XC ready to go
Jessa Newton runs down the ball during action against Loyola last season. Newton and the Valkyries open the 2021 season at the Choteau Invitational this weekend. (Jeremy Weber/Bigfork Eagle)
For the Eagle | August 25, 2021 12:00 AM
The Bigfork High School sports will be in full swing this weekend as the fall season gets underway for soccer, volleyball and cross country.
The boys soccer team is hoping for a strong start as they are coming off a season that saw the Vikings make the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Head coach Joel Fetveit says his team put up a good fight against Billings Central in the opening round of the Class A playoffs last season and hopes to build on that experience in 2021.
“I really feel like we controlled that playoff game, for the most part,” he said. “We had a lot of shots on goal, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. It was just one of those games.”
The Vikings will have two of their three All-Conference selections back this season with senior keeper Caden Riedesel once again in the net with junior defensive specialist Landon Byerman in front of him.
Fetveit said Vikings fans might also see Byerman on offense some this season.
“He controls the defense for us, but I might slide him up to midfield some this season as well because he also has a pretty brutal attack,” Fetveit said.
With the team putting in early-morning workouts since August 13, Fetveit says his squad is working hard to improve on last season’s 3-7 campaign.
“Our defense should continue to be strong this year and I am pretty confident in our lineup. I am really working on developing my midfielders and my strikers so we can really create space and find opportunities to score,” Fetveit said. “We are also really going to work on our finishing so we can get the ball in the back of the net. That’s something we struggled with last season. If we can get our accuracy honed in, I think we could be a force to be reckoned with this year.”
The Vikings open the season at Frenchtown Thursday at 6 p.m.
Head coach Tim Guenzler’s Valkyries will be looking to improve on a 2020 campaign that saw them make the playoffs for the first time in a decade as they open up the 2021 season at Frenchtown Thursday at 4 p.m.
All but two Valkyries return from the 2020 team that went 4-5-1, including All-Conference selections Brette Guenzler, Scout Nadeau and Danika Bucklin.
While Bigfork lost to defending champion Laurel 4-0 in the playoffs to end last season, coach Guenzler said just being there will help his team this season.
“Just making the playoffs last year was a big deal and then we got the experience of getting to play the state champions on their home field. We gained a lot of confidence and learned that we really can play at this level,” he said. “We were so young last season that we wound up just defending our goal a lot. This year we want to be much more of an attacking team. We want to look to possess the ball more, get more players forward and score more goals.”
With 23 players at practice, soccer seems to be more popular than ever in Bigfork and Guenzler is excited about the future.
“This is just a good group of young ladies to be around. They work hard and they are good to each other. We have a lot to be excited about,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough conference though, as always, with Columbia Falls and Whitefish, but we are excited about finding out what we can do this year.”
Under the leadership of new head coach Ryan Nolan, the Vikings cross country team will be looking to build on last season’s 10th place finish at state while the Valkyries runners are hoping to field a full team.
The Vikings return all but one runner from last year’s team, including last season’s top finisher in Elliot Sanford and Jack Jensen, who took fifth place in the mile run at the state track meet in June.
It was after that state track meet, where Nolan served as an assistant coach working with distance runners, that several of the Bigfork athletes came together to begin planting the seeds for cross country this fall.
“We had a meeting after track last season where several of the kids made the decision to run over the summer break because they felt our cross country team has a real chance to be quite good this fall,” Nolan said. “They really dedicated themselves this year and it was a lot of fun to watch.”
According to Nolan, he has at least two runners that put in more than 150 miles on the roads and trails around Bigfork this summer with another that topped 100.
“I think there is no question that we will do better than that tenth place finish from a year ago,” Nolan said.
For the Valkyries, who had just two runners last season, Nolan is expecting at least six runners this season. With three running veterans and three newcomers, the Valkyries are looking to have more than the minimum of five runners needed to collect team points at meets this season.
The 2021 cross country season gets underway at Libby Friday.
With a mix of four returning seniors and a collection of young talent, Bigfork head volleyball coach Ariel Stallknecht is looking to take the Valkyries to new heights in 2021.
“I am going to put the best six we have out on the court and I am excited about what we can do this season. There is a lot of promise,” she said. “Usually, we start off the season pretty slowly, but I feel like this year we are picking up right where we left off last season.”
While the team will have veteran leadership from players such as seniors Lexi Saari and Mackenzie Holton as well as junior Inga Turner, much of the 2021 squad will come from last season’s undefeated junior varsity team.
“Our seniors will definitely lead us, but we also have a lot of building to do with the younger players. They are working together more as a team and I am really pleased to see that,” Stallknecht said. “I put our younger players into a position to excel at the junior varsity level last year so that this year I could put any of them onto the varsity with no issues whatsoever. It’s really exciting how that has worked out.”
Stallknecht says her Valkyries will be figuring out their rotations as they open the season at the Choteau Invitational Friday and Saturday. Bigfork opens against Shelby at 10:30 a.m. Friday.