MISSOULA — It took more than two hours and most of two games, but someone finally scored in the Sentinel-Hellgate girls soccer stalemate.
It wasn't a player anyone expected. Mostly because she's been competing on the junior varsity level.
After battling to a draw at Playfair Park a month ago, the Knights and Spartans appeared headed for another tie Tuesday at rainy, cold Rattlesnake fields. That was until freshman Haley Wolsky made her coaches look like geniuses.
Wolsky, who just recently moved up to varsity for Sentinel, scored on a ricochet that took the starch out of the Knights in the 65th minute. The Spartans added two Aisley Allen insurance goals en route to a 3-0 triumph over their Western AA-leading counterparts.
"She was our JV standout and Payton (Agnew), my assistant, was like, 'Haley Wolsky, I think we should bring her up to varsity,'" Sentinel coach Dan Lochridge said. "We gave her a shot and started her today because she's got good speed and we knew she'd at least be able to put some pressure on their outside backs. She did more than that."
Sentinel's struggling offense has suddenly caught fire. The Spartans have scored more goals in their last two wins — they won 4-1 at Helena Capital Saturday — than they scored in their previous six games combined.
"Putting Kat Colyer into our center mid was also huge today," Lochridge said. "She made a huge difference, very crafty. It's all about putting the puzzle pieces in the right spot."
Wolsky's moment in the sun showcased her quick reactions. The ball was booted to the mouth of the goal on a free kick, where Allen collided with a hard-charging defender. Wolsky was waiting on the right side of the 18-yard box, and when the ball came her way, she knew just what to do, kicking it into the far left corner past capable goalkeeper Sophie Pierce.
"When it bounced off a bunch of people, the goalie went for it," Wolsky recalled. "Then she was on the ground and I kicked it to the corner.
"You have to stay calm and just not think about too much when you have that chance because if you do, you get worked up and kick it over."
The win put Sentinel in position to earn a share of the mythical city title if Hellgate and Big Sky tie on Thursday at Big Sky. If there is a winner in that game, that team will secure city bragging rights for the regular season.
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"We want wins now — we're sick of the tying," said Wolsky, whose team improved to 3-3-5. "I think we're connecting more and playing better as a team right now."
Hellgate fell into a tie with Glacier for first place in the Western AA at 7-2-2.
Hellgate boys hold on
The Knights stayed undefeated and bounced back from a weekend tie at Glacier with a 3-2 win over Sentinel. Hellgate raced to a 3-0 lead and survived a late rally by the Spartans (5-4-2).
"I'm just really proud of them," Knights coach Jay Anderson said. "They started very strong. They had a really good first half, and they started the second half strong.
"Once (Sentinel) got down, they started making adjustments, and they really started pushing more numbers forward. It gave us some problems, but we figured it out."
Reggie Duce gave the Knights a lead in the 10th minute on a feed from Dane Becker. Duce then assisted on a Beckett Arthur goal in the 25th minute.
Campbell Rolston-Clemmer's highlight-reel free kick gave the hosts a 3-0 lead in the 47th minute. With a wall of Sentinel defenders between Rolston-Clemmer and the goal, he booted the ball with his right foot, putting just enough spin on it so that it went around the wall and found the lower right corner.
Sentinel was not about to go down quietly. Cole Reimer scored in the 55th minute, and Jake Larson pulled the visitors within a goal on his shot in the 75th minute.
"It got a little hairy there the last few minutes," Anderson said. "Crosstown games like this are highly competitive.
"This really felt like a state tournament game. Any time they're playing against their buddies and it's a heated rivalry and they want those (city) bragging rights, both teams are going to play really hard."