The Helena High School boys and girls soccer teams both fell in hard-fought AA state championship matches on Saturday, bringing a heart-breaking end to a pair of successful seasons.
On the boys' side, Bozeman scored early - in only the 3rd minute of play - and pressured Helena hard for the remainder of the half, forcing goalkeeper Jaden Maharg into several fine saves and narrowly missing the goal on several more opportunities. The Bengals had a few chances of their own, but two particularly dangerous opportunities left Helena asking the "what if" question. The second half saw more even play with Helena collecting themselves at the break and playing greater possession soccer. The Hawks absorbed Helena's pressure and doubled their lead when presented with the opportunity in the 70th minute. Helena pressed hard to pull a goal back but was unable to find the back of the net on several more close scoring opportunities. The game ended in a 2-0 Hawks victory, their second in a row over Helena in MHSA AA state championship games (last year's score was 1-0). The mutual respect the squads hold for each other was obvious, as Bozeman embraced the Helena players prior to celebrating as a team. The Hawks finished out a perfect season, finishing 15-0-0, while the Bengals closed out a 10-4-2 campaign. HYSA Arsenal defeated the Bozeman Blitzz in last spring's U19 boys MYSA State Cup finals.
On the girls' side, Billings Senior - playing in their fourth straight state championship game - scored on a corner kick in the 33rd minute for all the offense needed in a 1-0 victory over the Lady Bengals. In a fairly even game devoid of the usual number of offensive opportunities, the East's and West's #1 seeds battled each other to a stalemate for a majority of the game, exchanging scoring chances but very few that turned out to be tremendously dangerous. Helena's defense of Emily Spindler (sr.), Hannah Joki (jr.), Heidi Wellenstein (sr.), Madison Therriault (sr.), and Shanna Floerchinger (so.) allowed by far the fewest number of goals in the state this year, which has become a staple of the Lady Bengals over the last few seasons.