HELENA – The East women snapped a three-year Western hold on the Shodair Soccer Classic as they opened with the first three goals and held on for a 3-2 victory in a game that saw all five goals find the net in an entertaining first half.
“It was a great game,” said East coach Megan Parrish, who led Billings Senior to the Class AA state title last fall. “You know any time you get a bunch of all-stars together, it’s going to be a great game. We got a little too comfortable I think with the 3-0 lead and they battled back and made a game out of it, so it feels great to get the win.”
C.M. Russell graduate and East forward Lexi Pyette earned MVP honors at Carroll College’s Nelson Stadium, where she’ll soon continue her career with the Saints. She scored the East’s second goal and was a constant thorn in the West’s side throughout the game.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Pyette said of earning the all-star game’s MVP honors. “All these girls are great players. We just came out and played hard. This is what we worked on in practice – make some passes and score goals.”
The East didn’t take long to get on the scoreboard as Billings Senior’s Mandi Achten took a shot outside the 18-yard box that found its way over Helena High goalkeeper Taelar Therriault’s head in the third minute.
In the 26th minute, Pyette attacked a cross from Belgrade’s Annie Prickett and knocked it in from close range to put the East ahead 2-0.
“Annie just crossed a wonderful ball,” Pyette said. “I couldn’t ask for a better ball. We had been working on it in practice, it came straight across and I just had to put some part of a body part on it. I hit it with my thigh and it went in.”
Gatorade Player of the Year Savannah Witt, who starred for Billings West, set up the East’s third goal with a brilliant run from the halfway line and down the right side of the field past two defenders. She turned inside and sent a pass to Bozeman’s Erin Sturman near the penalty spot. Sturman made a quick move to her left before depositing the goal in the back of the net for a 3-0 advantage in the 35th minute.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Witt, who will continue her career at the University of Montana. “In practice, we had been working on going wide and then driving down the line, cutting in and hitting it back. I knew somebody would be there.”
But a minute later, the West finally got on the scoreboard when Capital’s Sophie Carkulis sent a cross in from the left side of the field. Capital’s Lexi Starceski let the ball run past her inside the box to Missoula Big Sky’s Tifani Zanto, who knocked it in.
Another 2 minutes further into the match, Helena High’s Mykaylee Verworn sent a high, arching cross into the box that wound up sneaking over Great Falls High goalkeeper Katie Messimer’s head and into the top right corner to make the score 3-2.
But that goal, with 2 minutes remaining before halftime, was the final tally of the game.
EAST 3, WEST 2
First half – 1, East, Mandi Achten (unassisted), 3:00; 2, East, Lexi Pyette (Annie Prickett), 26:00; 3, East, Erin Sturman (Savannah Witt), 35:00; 4, West, Tifani Santo (Sophie Carkulis), 35:00; 5, West, Mykaylee Verworn (unassisted), 38:00.
Second half – No scoring.
Goalkeepers – East, Katie Messimer 1 saves, Katie Hoff 2; West, Taelar Therriault 6.