As far as championship finishes go, the Laurel girls soccer team has an early claim to be the best of the fall sports season.
The Locomotives won a State A soccer title this past weekend in one of the most thrilling ways imaginable.
The Locomotives trailed Whitefish 2-0 with less than 20 minutes to play before rattling off two goals to force overtime, where Laurel eventually prevailed, 3-2. Sticking together through adversity allowed Laurel to complete the comeback.
“One thing I love about this team is we never give up. We play until the last second, no matter what," said Laurel defender Grace Wagner. "You’ve got to have heart. You’ve got to want it and you’ve got to work for it. Those are the most important things in soccer, in life, in friendships. It’s so important.”
Wagner’s goal came on a seemingly impossible shot, as she found the back of the net from about 40 yards out to ultimately force overtime. It didn’t surprise those wearing the purple and gold, though.
“That’s her range. She can do that. As a defender, you don’t always get the opportunity to take that kick. We’ve been telling her, ‘If you get in that range and everybody is locked up with a defender, take a chance. Take that kick,'" Laurel head coach Aloma Jess said. "It was probably the game changer, really.”
For the first 60 minutes, Whitefish was in control of the game. But as soon as Maeson Cotter found the back of the net in the second half, Laurel felt a little pressure ease from its chest.
The Locomotives captured the momentum that Cotter’s goal brought and capitalized by finding the net twice more to hoist their third state title in the past four years, now having played in seven consecutive title matches.
“As soon as you score a goal, it at least lets you know you can score a goal and you aren’t going to come away with a zero, which nobody wants," Jess said. "I think for those next eight minutes, it really motivates a team. That’s where we had the advantage at that point.”
It was an improbable comeback on the state’s biggest stage that won’t soon be forgotten in the Laurel community. It was also the first time Laurel got to host a title game since 2004, when the Locomotives lost to Columbia Falls 6-1.