HELENA -- Rain, sleet or snow, the Helena High Bengals refused to be denied Wednesday, defeating the Missoula Hellgate Knights with overtime penalty kicks to advance to the Class AA girls soccer championship.
The Knights got on the board first behind a Carmen Anderson goal that was started after the wind held up a free-kick that Anderson was able to pull away from defenders and score.
The Bengals were unsuccessful, not for a lack of trying, in scoring goals until the second half when Avery Kraft took a pass from Rachel Plaster and Kraft was able to sneak one past the Hellgate goalkeeper to knot up the game at 1-1.
Neither team was able to score during the final minutes of regular time and through the first two overtime periods as snow began to litter the field, so the game would be decided by penalty kicks. Before the Bengals made their way to mid-field, head coach Mike Meloy told his players to draw on their past experiences.
"You've done this before, you can do it again," Meloy said when asked after the game what he told his team before the shootout.
"I went in and I was confident in myself and I knew that we would win this game. I just knew. I knew from the beginning of playoffs we'd go to state," said Helena High goalkeeper Audri Aakre. "It's just this team is unbelievable."
The Bengals' Hadley Kraft, Quin Benedetti and Kaiya Newby iced the game with three straight penalty kicks to win the semifinal tilt.
The Bengals will now host the Kalispell Glacier Wolfpack in the Class AA state championship soccer match. The game is scheduled for Saturday, but Helena School District activities director Tim McMahon told MTN Sports that impending weather will likely force the match to a later date.