KALISPELL – The State AA soccer tournament kicked off in Kalipsell on Thursday with a pair of thrilling matches in the girls bracket.
Helena High entered the tournament as the defending champion and top seed from the West. But Billings West pulled off a shocker, defeating the Bengals in a shootout. The game remained scoreless into overtime. Aine Lawlor had a good look to try and win the game for the Bengals, but West keeper Maia Wetzel made a spectacular punch save to keep it out of the top corner. Wetzel kept playing hero once the game advanced to penalty kicks. She stepped to the spot and scored her own penalty to tie the score 3-3. Helena’s Lawlor then missed wide left. West came back with Meghan Hill who scored to make it 4-3. Helena’s last chance from Grace Lawlor was stopped by a diving Wetzel. And the Golden Bears finished off the upset 4-3.
Missoula Sentinel and Billings Skyview also went the full distance in the first round. Neither team could score throughout regulation. East No. 3-seed Skyview did get great looks on goal from Jordan Roe and Aubrey Braun in the second half. But Spartans keeper Bekah Joy kept the No. 2 seed from the West in the game with great saves. The match stayed scoreless through 20 minutes of overtime. And in penalty kicks, both teams remained very close. Both missed their first penalties. Then made their second and third. Then missed their fourth and fifth. The match continued into sudden death. Both made the sixth shot, missed the seventh, missed the eighth, and Skyview’s Halle Labert made the ninth to tie it up 4-4. Sentinel made their tenth shot. But on the Falcons attempt, Joy made one more clutch save. Sentinel moved on 5-4.
Helena Capital sprinted to a great start in the tournament versus Billings Senior. The third seed from the West took down the No. 2 seed from the East, 3-1. Capital scored late in the first half to take the lead, and then Bruins keeper Aryn Cummings made a few big saves to keep the advantage 1-0 at halftime. Senior briefly tied the game in the second half, but just three minutes later Capital took the lead back. The Bruins then extended the lead in the final moments to send the Broncs to the loser’s bracket.
The East’s top seed proved their strength. Bozeman hammered the No. 4 seed from the West, Missoula Hellgate, 4-0. The Hawks’ Olivia Kaiser scored in the third minute. Abby Ross made it 2-0 late in the first half. And then Alexa Coyle scored twice in the second half to give Bozeman a comfortable victory over the Knights.
The two teams that posted upsets will now meet in Friday’s semifinals. Billings West and Helena Capital will kick off at 1:30 p.m. At the same time, Bozeman and Missoula Sentinel collide for the other spot in the championship.
In the loser’s bracket, Helena meets Billings Senior and Missoula Hellgate battles Billings Skyview. Both of those games kickoff at 11 a.m.