Havre Daily News
Havre native Shannon Howland started out with a goal. That goal was to add a girls soccer team to the Hi-Line United soccer club, and even though she completed her goal a year earlier than expected, in the end she got what she wanted.
“Well my goal was to start up a girls club soccer team by the time that my daughter got into high school so that she could play,” Howland said. “My daughter is in eighth grade now so I guess I accomplished my goal, but it was just a year early.”
So, Howland got her wish and the Hi-line United girls team is up and running. But the United's inaugural season has had plenty of bumps in the road as the United started playing right away in the U-18 league against talented and more experienced soccer teams.
“We play in a very tough league,” Howland said. “Most of the teams we play are very experienced and have been playing for quite a few years now, so naturally we had some growing pains early on because we have a lot of young girls, but the team has really stuck together and worked hard to try and improve and get better.”
In its first season the United got off to a bit of a shaky start, falling fell to Miles City 3-0 and losing to a very solid Belgrade team 9-0.
“We lost our first game of the year to Miles City but we played them fairly tight and they are a good team so I was pretty pleased with how the girls played for our first game,” Howland said. “Then Belgrade kind of roughed us up a little bit. They beat us pretty handily and it was also a very physical game and it took a toll on our team.”
Since that point the United have begun to steadily improve, winning three of its last eight games. The wins came over Lewistown 3-2 and the United also picked up two wins over Eureka by the scores of 5-1 and 2-1. With those three wins, the United improved its overall record to 3-7 in this season.
“Beating Lewistown was pretty big for our team,” Howland said. “Especially because they had already beaten us earlier in the season and I was really proud of the girls for how they came back and got a win against a good team.
“I was also really proud of our two wins against Eureka,” she added. “I thought that those two games were important because they are the only team besides us that is competing in their first year so it was kind of a good way to measure ourselves. I mean we can measure ourselves against the other teams that we play also, but to measure how much better we are actually getting playing Eureka is a lot better for our team because they are more on our level.”
The United are led by forward Carly Chenoweth, who is the team's top goal scorer as well as Emily Hilliard and Mariah Armstrong, who both play multiple positions and also add to the offensive attack as well as the team's overall defense.
“Carly is our most experienced player and she has been a great leader for us all season long,” Howland said. “She tries to help out the younger players and she is one of our best goal scorers. If we score a goal in a game a lot of the time it is her that scored it. Emily and Mariah are also two of my more advanced players and they have done a good job getting better and helping all the other girls on the team get better also.”
Other contributors for the United are goalies Amber Odegard and Kelsey Newton. Emily Boyce, Kadee Burrington, Sarah Lippy, Gabrielle Aliviera and Rylea Olsen contribute as mid-fielders and forwards and Jessica Howland, Abi Ita, Patty Jiraprasertsuk and Taylor O'Connell help out on defense and also contribute as mid-fielders as well for the United.
“We have a lot of good young players that are working hard and want to continue to get better,” Howland said. “I think that the future looks pretty good for our team because we are going to have a lot of girls back next year and playing for us for the next few years so they will gain experience and keep getting better. It has definitely been an up and down season for us, but I think that we are on the right track and we are just going to continue to try and build the team up so in a couple years we can be a strong team.”
The United will finish its first season in the U-18 league season this weekend with games against Laurel and Lewistown.