BLAINE, Minn. – One week they’re getting tips from Catalan coaches, the next they’re winning international tournaments.
The Missoula Big Sky girls under-17 soccer team won their division at the USA Cup in Blaine, Minn., this past weekend, taking a title in the largest youth soccer tournament in North America.
The Big Sky girls beat the Euro FC Goal Diggers in the Silver Flight final on Saturday in a match that went to penalty kicks.
After tying the Goal Diggers 1-1 and that score standing up through a regulation 90 minutes, the match went to penalty kicks. Big Sky coaches put defender Ellen Bonner in net for the PKs, opting for her quickness over experience at the goal keeper position. She blocked the decisive shot – while netting a penalty- kick goal on offense as well – to help the Eagles win 4-2.
The Big Sky girls finished the tournament 5-1 overall. Incoming freshman Cassidy Pierce scored five goals on the way to the championship.
But the U17 girls were just one of three squads from the Missoula high school competing. The U17 boys put together a deep run in their tournament as well, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 2-2-1 mark before being ousted by Minnesota’s own PSA Rebels, the eventual champions.
Big Sky junior Dana Kowachek scored six goals during the Eagles’ tournament stay, including three in a 5-0 dismantling in the first round of Millonarios Academy, a Colombian team. Senior captain Tristan Powers added two goals, as did Eric Nelson.
Big Sky’s U15 boys also competed, though the team struggled with inexperience. The youngest set of Eagles scored one goal in three games, facing off with teams from Ecuador and Mexico.
More than 14,000 youth players and 1,000 teams competed in the USA Cup this year, making the tournament the fourth-largest such gathering in the world.