HELENA -- They say the third time is the charm, and that phrase held true for the Kalispell Glacier girls soccer program on Thursday.
Taylor Brisendine scored in stoppage time of the first half, and the Glacier defense did the rest, securing a 1-0 victory over Helena High in the Class AA girls soccer championship. It was the first title in program history for the Wolfpack girls, who had lost twice to the Bengals during the 2020 season.
"Honestly, I was in shock. I didn’t realize it at first until my whole team started hugging. I started bawling my eyes out," Brisendine said following the match. "It’s crazy. It just felt so unreal. It was crazy. I don’t know how else to explain it."
"For Kalispell in general, for girls sports in Kalispell in general, the trophy is coming home. We’re going to put our name on that banner," said Wolfpack coach Brenden Byrd. "This group came in with unfinished business and they’re leaving doing the business they needed to do."
Brisendine, a senior, poked her goal through in the waning moments of the opening half, then the Glacier defense survived a Helena free kick with sophomore Ella Wilson saving the attempt between the posts.
That momentum carried over to the second half.
"Our defense, this was probably one of their best games. They played their hardest," said Brisendine. "We couldn’t have done this without a whole team effort, but a lot of the props goes to the defense this game."
Helena High, which was seeking its fourth Class AA girls soccer championship, saw multiple attempts on goal, many in the first half, but couldn't match Glacier's lone goal. The Wolfpack defense, led by two-time all-state back Kenzie Williams, controlled the field of play in the final minutes, setting up a celebration 13 years in the making.
Kalispell Glacier opened its doors in 2007.
"It feels so good. We’ve been waiting for this opportunity since we were freshmen," Williams said. "It feels amazing to celebrate with my teammates, my coaches. It’s all been worth it."
Thursday's championship was originally scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24, but winter weather pushed the title tilt back, first to Wednesday, then Thursday. The extended wait for the first championship appearance in program history didn't bother the Wolfpack, who were prepared to play whenever the match was finalized.
"Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the regular season brings, we were just bringing it to the postseason, doing everything we could," said Williams. "After that (semifinal) win against Bozeman, we had so much momentum going and we were just continuing that on. It felt great."
"I was teasing the girls when we came back to the huddle, I said, ‘I don’t know if my first-born felt this good right now,'" said Byrd. "It’s the greatest feeling in the world, the sun is shining on us, I couldn’t be happier."
Thursday's was the fifth runner-up finish for Helena High, which had won its previous two playoff games in shootouts -- defeating Bozeman Gallatin 9-8 in the quarterfinals and advancing past Missoula Hellgate 3-0 in the semifinals.
The Bengals are set to graduate four seniors -- Hailee Pocha, Makayela Ellison, Bailey Root and Hadley Draft -- according to WallSoccer.net.
Glacier loses seven of its seniors -- Emily Cleveland, Kate Sheldon, Reese Leichtfuss, Ady Powell, Kenzie Williams, Madison Becker, Ellie Keller and Taylor Brisendine. Becker tallied the state's fourth-best mark of 32 points this season, with 11 goals and 10 assists.