MISSOULA – Hannah Santamaria won the game for Big Sky — until she didn't.
Santamaria appeared to break a 1-1 tie when she put a ball in the back of the net in the second half. The referee blew his whistle to signal a foul against Hellgate, to which Big Sky unsuccessfully protested it had the advantage when the whistle was blown and the goal should stand.
Big Sky was awarded a free kick, which Hellgate saved, and although both offenses produced several more shots in the second half, neither team scored as they tied 1-1 on Tuesday at the Hellgate soccer and softball fields. The Hellgate boys beat Big Sky 5-0 earlier in the day.
“It was very tough to tie,” Big Sky assistant coach Meagan Auch said. “Especially with the way the girls played, we don’t deserve to tie tonight.
“I think (the whistle) changed the game incredibly, changed the entire flow. It’s pretty frustrating. Our girls are fighting hard, and to have something like that taken away is pretty hard. We had opportunities to earn it back for sure, and we just weren’t able to capitalize.”
Big Sky finished with 12 shots on goal and Hellgate’s Kine Stimac came up with 11 saves. None was more clutch than her diving save of a penalty kick less than four minutes after the disallowed goal.
With just under 10 minutes remaining, Stimac knocked down the ball on a free kick and recovered to save another shot off the rebound.
“She came up huge on that penalty kick,” Hellgate coach Ian Marshall said. “She was diving really well and making a lot of saves. Really pleased with how she played today. She kept us in there for sure.”
Big Sky’s Whitney Morrison had a prime chance with just over three minutes remaining when she drove into the box and struck a ball that went off the left post.
Hellgate managed three corner kicks in the final minute but came up empty on all of them. The Knights got four of their five shots on goal in the second half.
Big Sky went up 1-0 in the ninth minute on Gianna Migliaccio’s goal, assisted by Whitney Morrison. Hellgate’s Addie Flemming tied the game 1-1 in the 20th minute.
Quick start fuels Hellgate boys
The Knights scored two goals in the opening 14 minutes as they rolled to a 5-0 win over Big Sky.
Junior Cole Hage scored two goals and assisted on two others to pace Hellgate. Senior Matt Baldridge scored once and added an assist. Rylan Compton and Nino Paoli chipped in one goal each, and Campbell Rolston-Clemmer added an assist.
“We’ve just been playing really well the second half of the season,” Hage said of Hellgate’s energy in the quick start. “It’s been fun to get out and play with the guys.”
Big Sky goalie Devin Jacaruso saved 18 shots, including multiple saves with a quick reaction time late in the first half that kept Big Sky within 2-0 at the intermission.
“Their goalie is one of the best in the conference for sure,” Hellgate coach Jay Anderson said. “He did great back there. He made some point-blank saves that could have blown it wide open, but he made some great saves to keep them in it. I thought he had a fantastic game, maybe the best of anyone on the field.”
In the second minute, Compton scored on a one-timer assisted by Hage, who had stolen the ball and went down the left side before crossing the ball into the box. Hage added a goal in the 14th minute on a blast from about 25 yards out.
The vast majority of the game was played in Hellgate’s offensive half.
“They’re well coached, have a great tactic,” Big Sky coach Pat Beckwith said. “It’s tough to slow them down, but I think we did a lot better today.”