What a difference the third season makes for the Thunder Mountain High School soccer teams.
The 2012 Falcons, considered by some as the also-rans in the Capital City, have shown in fact to be a tough opponent on the pitch.
The Falcons’ boys (1-2-1) split with the Sitka Wolves at TMHS.
On Friday the Falcons pushed past a 0-0 first half to score 10 minutes into the match when play resumed.
Sophomore Brandon Monges created a scoring opportunity with a break through to the goalmouth and was pulled down in the box by three Wolves. The penalty allowed junior defenseman Stephen Ringle to put a penalty kick easily past the keeper’s right side into a low left net giving the Falcons a 1-0 lead and keeping Ringle perfect on penalty kicks in the season (2-2).
The Falcons got a second score five minutes later as freshman Ryan Hoover and senior Allen Shaw hustled after a ball at center field with three Wolves. The two Falcons corralled the ball between them and Hoover put a nice touch to the right side of the net and the goalie charged the advance.
The Falcons got a third goal of a free kick by Ringle who put a nice shot to the front of the box and sophomore Ben Jahn headed in the shot.
“Ben is a powerful weapon in the air,” assistant coach Ringle said. “The game gave our players a lot of confidence. When we play with confidence we really show what we can do. Unfortunately our offense didn’t show up the second game.”
On Saturday the Falcons struggled to get any momentum in the match.
After a scoreless first half the Wolves had a corner kick late in the match. The shot was headed through the crease when a Falcons player struck it down and it landed at the foot of a Sitka striker who touched it in. That point would hold for the final.
“We lost our composure at that moment for about five minutes,” Ringle said. “It is one of those things we have to build with a young team. We have to be aggressive and convert. If we don’t come with our “A” offense it makes it really tough on our defense.”
The Falcons had a shot hit the post and three others go wide in the contest, meaning that the opportunities were there.
The Falcons possess an incredibly strong defense. The season challenge will be to bring the offense up to that level.
Tonight’s match against Juneau-Douglas High School will pit the young Falcons defense against an offense-friendly Crimson Bears side loaded with seniors. That game is scheduled to go to play at 7 p.m. (JV action is set for 5:15) on Falcons Field. Josh Tupou is still out with injury and Travis Johnson is questionable after taking a hard shoulder fall on Saturday. Freshmen Hoover and Zack Dindinger will be relied upon to contribute in their first real test against experience from the JDHS side.
“We have a lot of large physical players,” Ringle said. “That is one of our strengths. We are young but have talent and they are putting their heads into the idea that every high school game is going to be a battle.”
The Falcons’ girls had a very positive outing against the Kayhi Kings marred with a season-ending injury to multi-sport junior star Jonelle Staveland.
“It is devastating for her personally and for our team,” TMHS coach Kris Coffee said. “She has been working so hard this season.”
Staveland had actually worked through knee pain last season to have stellar seasons through volleyball, basketball and soccer. She also completed two top performing seasons in volleyball and basketball this year.
The Falcons were on a strong path Friday. Goalkeeper Claire White performed her first game experience to near flawless perfection, making five nice saves including coming out to take on an advancing Kings’ player one-on-one and deflecting the shot.
“We don’t have a deep bench,” Coffee said. “We had to step it up and play hard. We are a young and inexperienced team but I felt that all our players did well and played hard. You like to win but you also like to see the individual success and progress of your players. And we did see that.”
The Falcons found themselves staying even with the Kings at 0-0 in the first half. Ketchikan capitalized on lapses in the Falcons defenders not pushing up into the Kayhi zone, a common mistake in the early season by even experienced teams, to score twice in the second half.
The Falcons also had numerous shots on goal that went just wide or were slightly misplayed, another element the young TMHS girls will overcome as the season progresses.
Eight Falcons played the entire game in front of a larger than average crowd.
Calley Odum had two nice shots on goal and Rhys Coffee had a tight free kick that went just wide.
Last season the Falcons played most games in their own half of the field. Already the team is spending a majority of play midfield and attacking the opponent’s keep.
“The team is positive about their play,” coach Coffee said. “We are still a young and inexperienced team, but we are progressing and we are working hard. If Jonelle hadn’t hurt her knee I would have been thrilled about this weekend regardless of the score. As coaches we are pleased that the girls executed what we have been practicing and they worked hard.”
The TMHS girls host the Crimson Bears on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. at Falcons Field.