HELENA -- Avery Kraft knew what she wanted to do. The key was to not psych herself out of it.
With her Helena High girls soccer team needing a goal to win a shootout during last Friday's Class AA quarterfinal playoff game against newcomer Bozeman Gallatin, Kraft calmly walked to the box and tried not to give away her plan.
"When you place the ball on the line, you kind of have a gut feeling what side you're going to pick," Kraft said of the mentality prior to taking the PK shot. "You can kind of read the goalie on which side she wants to go to. Then, it's just pick a side."
Kraft's shot rolled to her left, the Raptors' keeper's right, sending Helena to the semifinals for the first time since 2017, when the Bengals won the Class AA title.
"We never really thought it would come to a shootout, honestly. We had practiced for them in practice, but we never thought it would have to happen because we knew we play hard," Kraft said, referencing Gallatin's impressive postseason run. "When it happened we were kind of freaking out, but we knew we just needed to calm down and play good, shoot good."
While Kraft was credited with the game-winning goal, it was Bengals keeper Audri Aakre that made the game-changing play on the PK attempt prior. The two teams had gone 16 consecutive shots without a miss in the shootout before Aakre dove to her right and made the first save in PKs.
"You try and focus on both their hips, where their hips are facing -- across their body or right ahead -- and their eyes. A lot of times people try to trick you by looking at the side they want to go to," Aakre said of the mind games. "I just tried to focus on their hips, and if they were closed then I would go to the near side, if not then I would go to the far side."
"We all started running out and celebrating because we thought we had won when Audri saved that," admitted Kraft. "Then we realized, 'Oh, we just have to make it.' If Audri wouldn't have saved that, it might have gone on and on. It was great that Audri saved it."
Helena High was already a favorite to reach the state championship game, and with defending champion Billings West bowing out after an upset by Missoula Hellgate, which the Bengals host Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., HHS is riding high knowing it's one win away from hosting a state title match.
"I would say we're pretty confident," said Aakre. "Ever since the conference games got over, our energy has been pretty high, especially in practice. We've been giving it our all every single day, and I can feel the energy switch, for sure."
"We are feeling really good. We're super excited," echoed Kraft. "We're always excited going into games, we always hype each other up. We're feeling really confident."
For updated scores and pairings from the Montana high school soccer state playoffs, please click here.