Facing tough competition, the Libby High School girls soccer team showed they could go toe-to-toe with much more technically proficient opponents in the final half of their game against Belgrade Saturday.
After a 5-0 loss to Park High School on Friday, the Lady Loggers were facing an 8-0 deficit at the half against the Lady Panthers Saturday. Yet, after a pep talk from Head Coach Eric Kapan, Libby came back to not only score their first goal of the season, but hold the Lady Panthers to a single goal in the second half.
Kapan said that Belgrade did play some of their junior varsity players to even the field a bit against Libby, which doesn’t even have a junior varsity team.
Yet, given how discouraged the Lady Loggers were at halftime, he spoke highly of their determination to be competitive when they returned to the field.
“You know, the first half I think they were just intimidated against Belgrade, and I told them at halftime to stop it,” Kapan said. “I said it doesn’t matter who they are, and they played a totally different second half.”
Kapan said it was a good morale boost to have the first Libby goal of the season against the hardest of the three teams they have faced. Yet, it’s also difficult to learn when facing competition that is so much more proficient at the game.
In their loss against Park Friday, Kapan said the team started to really “gel” near the end of the game as well.
Discussing both Park and Belgrade, Kapan acknowledged the advantage that their local soccer programs give the players.
“We have a good program. We have a good spring program. We have a decent high school system,” Kapan said. “It’s just, we don’t keep the kids there, so the fundamentals aren’t there. They kick better, they pass better, and they understand the game.”
The Lady Loggers do boast several technically strong players, but many of the players have not had the time with the ball that some of their opponents have.
Yet, there is a strong team spirit and good athleticism even among the newest players, Kapan said.
“They’re just starting to understand the game and what to do, and they’re asking great questions,” he said.
As to the team as a whole, some have had several years already playing with each other outside of the high school program, Kapan said. Even for those who don’t have that, they are beginning to work together better.
By the end of last year, the team had really “gelled,” he said. He hopes to see that happening earlier in the season this year.
Just seeing that increasing competitiveness and effort in improvement over the season is more important than the score, he said.
“They get along great. They play well together. They practice well together,” he said.
“They’re starting to understand how each of them plays and how they pass, what to look for,” Kapan said. “They should gel pretty well, and hopefully we’ll at least give some good competition to conference.”