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Pirate soccer advances to state semifinals with win over Loyola

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POLSON – A steady diet of goals gave the Polson Pirate soccer team a 7-3 opening-round home playoff win over Missoula Loyola on Saturday afternoon.

Polson advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals after surviving a 3-2 penalty-shootout win over the visiting Columbia Falls Wildcats in a playoff play-in match on Tuesday evening. 

After a tense 2-2 draw in regulation and two scoreless overtime periods, a sudden-death shootout   provided extra drama to an already nerve-shredding game. 

With Polson converting all six of their shots, Pirate goalie Xavier Stalkfleet blocked the Wildcats’ final shot. The Pirates celebrated the win and playoff berth.

 “Tuesday was a wild one,” said Pirate head coach Adam Fansher. “We weren’t at our best but did just barely enough to get the win. I was really impressed with how organized Columbia Falls was. We had all sorts of problems breaking them down.” 

In the semifinal game on Saturday, Polson jumped out to a quick start, getting a goal in the third minute of the match when Mack Moderie fired the first of his two first period goals past the opposing keeper. 

Loyola knotted the score 1-1 at the 23-minute mark.

Pirate Nico River snuck one past the Loyola goalie at the 36-minute mark to break the 1-1 deadlock.

A minute later, the Loyola goalie picked the ball out of the back of the net again as the Pirates took a 3-1 lead on the second goal of the day by Moderie. At the halftime break, Polson led 3-1.

The Pirates, in the 44th minute, extended their advantage to 4-1 on another River goal. Loyola narrowed its deficit to 4-2 at the 50-minute mark. Late in the second period, the Pirates broke the match wide open in a 10-minute span that saw Erickson score two goals and Bridger Wenzel finding the back of the net off a Stalkfleet assist. When the dust cleared in the 68th minute, the score was 7-2 in Polson’s favor. A goal from Loyola would set the final score of 7-3 at the 76th-minute.

“Today I thought the boys played well overall,” said Fansher. “We didn’t take our chances early, but once we got rolling late in the first half, it was good for us.” 

The Pirates will now travel to take on two-time defending champion Belgrade Panthers in a semifinal matchup at Noon on Saturday, Oct. 20.

“We are still making mistakes defensively and will need to improve in that area if we are going to get a result in Belgrade against the defending champs on Saturday,” Fansher said. “Losing in the semifinals was tough to swallow last year, but I feel like we learned a lot from that loss and will have a better perspective going into the matchup this year. They have some really talented players and are very well coached, so we have a big task in front of us if we want to get to the final.”

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