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Clark Fork girls win Flathead Valley championship

The Clark Fork Soccer Alliance celebrated a monumental victory at the Flathead Valley 3BR Tournament, clinching the championship in a thrilling final match against Polson FC. The girls

showcased their talent, determination, and teamwork in a memorable 3-0 win. The annual 3 Blind Refs (3BR) Tournament, the largest in Northwest Montana, hosted over 180 teams. The Clark Fork team impressed throughout, scoring 14 goals and conceding only 2. Last year, the Clark Fork Soccer Alliance U18 Girls took second place in this tournament. This season, they showed tremendous growth and determination, culminating in their championship win.

The Clark Fork Soccer Alliance consists of 21 girls from towns including St. Regis, Paradise, Plains, Thompson Falls, Trout Creek, and Libby.

In the earlier seeding games, Clark Fork showcased their dominance. In Game 1 against NCFC Calgary, they won 6-1 with a hat trick from Claire Wrobleski and goals from Maddie Carter, Katherine Wrobleski, and Morgan Hayes. Despite an injury to one of their lead attackers, Kaydence Stanek, the team remained resilient. In Game 2, Clark Fork redeemed four losses earlier in the season against Polson with a resounding 5-1 victory.

The final match, played in the windy and rainy conditions of the Flathead Valley, saw Clark Fork and Polson FC facing off for the sixth time this season. Despite the weather and the late 5 p.m. kickoff, the Clark Fork girls were undeterred. Polson, fresh off a semifinal victory on penalties, proved to be fierce competitors. The game started with intense back-and-forth action. Clark Fork's goalkeeper, Ava Lawyer, made an early save just five minutes in, setting the tone for the match. Moments later, Clark Fork's Claire Wrobleski scored a stunning free-kick goal, giving her team the lead. As the game continued to unfold, Clark Fork began to exert pressure, maintaining the majority of possession.

"At times, it seemed that we were camping out in their half," said Coach Lawyer. "But what can I say, we didn't convert any of our shots and their defense held really well."

Polson was able to get away on a breakaway attack, but a last-second tackle by center-back Mikiah Cook was needed to stop them from taking a shot. For the late crunching tackle that sent the Polson right winger sprawling, Mikiah earned a caution (yellow card).

"Mikiah is such an experienced defender," said Coach Nick. "She knows where the line is, and she plays with aggression and skill."

At halftime, Clark Fork held a slender 1-0 lead. The second half started similarly to the first, with both teams trying to seize control. Once again, it was Clark Fork, and once again, Claire Wrobleski made her mark. On a swift cross from her sister Katherine Wrobleski from the right wing, Claire had a quick one-touch finish at the near post to double the advantage.

"Kay-Dubs has been a bit of our secret weapon this spring," said Coach Lawyer. "Sure, she's only a 7th-grader, but she really announced herself at this tournament with four4 assists and two2 goals of her own."

With a 2-0 goal advantage, Clark Fork continued to press for the third. It finally came with seven minutes to play. On a smart cut-back pass from youngster Emmie Tucker of Plains, Clark Fork winger Joslin Gassman was bowled over by a Polson defender in the box, who was injured in the process. For the third time in the game, Clark Fork senior Claire Wrobleski stepped forward to take the penalty kick, which she slotted home coolly for the three-goal lead.

With the minutes waning and time running out, Polson continued to press to get back in the game. Keeper Ava Lawyer had several quick saves to preserve the shutout win.

"This is a real accomplishment for these girls and this team," coach Lawyer stated. "They went undefeated last fall, but this season has been a bit of a wake-up call for them. They've lost to Polson four times prior this season and also had some tough games on the road. To come into a tough competitive environment, beat a team from a big city like Calgary, and then redeem four losses against your western Montana rival is pretty amazing. These girls are fierce competitors, and I'm very proud of them."

Claire was the standout scorer with eight goals, including a hat trick in the final, while her sister Katherine added two more. Other contributors included Savannah Costner, Morgan Hayes, Madison Toyias, and Maddie Carter. Goalkeeper Ava Lawyer was outstanding, allowing just two goals in the entire tournament and holding a shutout in the final match.

Coach Lawyer expressed his pride in the team. "Along the way, the girls have grown tremendously, and they have a great sense of respect and appreciation for each other and how hard we have to work as a team to succeed at this level. It's bittersweet to see Claire and Madison and Mikiah all move on from our club. It's been an amazing experience to watch them grow and develop as players and as young women."

The community has rallied behind the team, celebrating their hard-fought victory. The success of the Clark Fork Soccer Alliance is a testament to their hard work, dedication, and the support of their families and community.

"Everybody knew when we started the season that signing up to play meant signing up to practice and train and that everybody had to earn their playing time and their spots on the team," said Coach Lawyer. "Everybody contributed throughout the whole season, from the top to the bottom of the roster. The future is bright, and I'm excited for what's next."

 

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