HELENA — It was a tough finish for Missoula's two high school soccer teams with title aspirations.
The Missoula Hellgate boys saw their streak of three straight state titles snapped by Bozeman, 2-1 in Saturday's State AA championship soccer match at Siebel Fields.
And the upstart Missoula Big Sky girls had their title hopes dashed by Billings Skyview, which earned a 6-0 win in the title match.
Bozeman 2, Hellgate 1
In a championship match that lived up to the billing expected for two undefeated teams, the Bozeman High boys came out on top.
The Hawks went up 2-0 in the first half with their second goal by Will Kaiser turning out to be the deciding score.
Hellgate's Matt Baldridge shook the net with 7 minutes left on the clock, but Bozeman's vaunted defense held on, as the Hawks secured their fifth championship in program history and fourth in seven years.
Both clubs were conference titlists, with the East's Bozeman (15-0-0) completing a perfect season, while the West's Knights finished at 13-1-1.
"First and foremost, Hellgate is a quality program in every aspect, it was a fantastic game and I couldn't ask for a better final," said coach Hunter Terry, who guided Bozeman to a three-peat of its own from 2012-14.
"Our plan was to utilize dynamic attacks and look to keep going forward often, and we did that in the first half. In the second half we used a lower pressure, disciplined defense and packed it in. We settled in, did a good job of collaborating, and hung on for the win."
The Hawks started strong and scored in the fifth minute on a goal by Brendan Ulvin, receiving a corner kick from Jack Bentson. In the 39th minute, Kaiser scored to put his team up 2-0.
"Jackson Coles took a shot and their keeper deflected it back to me at about the 5," Kaiser recounted. "I saw the ball coming and knew that I had to put it away — that I had to score that goal. I just reacted, knocked it in, and when it went in I was happy ... just really happy."
The Hawks out-shot their counterparts with some of their better attempts coming from Zach Springer, Bergen Hill, Ted Scott and Ben Taylor. A few of Hellgate's closer attempts belonged to Marcus Anderson and Baldridge.
Both keepers — Bozeman's Jovial Milich and Hellgate's Brendan Oberg — had stellar games. The Hawks finished the year outscoring their opposition 90-4, with Baldridge's score being only the fourth goal they allowed in 15 games.
"On their first goal off that corner kick, we knew they were going to come out big and strong in the air, and we just couldn't stop it," Hellgate coach Jay Anderson said. "Both teams played really well, and Bozeman was the better team today. But we have a great team too; just getting to the finals is an amazing accomplishment, and I'm very proud of all of these guys."
Billings Senior 3, Helena 0: After an evenly-played first half that was knotted at zeros, Billings Senior, sparked by Simon Rolfson's two goals, captured the third-place trophy over Helena.
Capital 4, Missoula Sentinel 2: Sparked by Aidan Adamek's three goals, Capital (9-5-2) closed out its season with a win over Missoula Sentinel (9-7-0) to place fifth.
Connor Bartleson also scored for the Bruins on a penalty kick. Teammate Ryan Quinn had an assist.
Sentinel's goals were scored by Noah McNelis and Cole Reimer.
"Hats off the Paul, he's a good coach; we had their number during the season, and they had our number today," Sentinel coach Gary Stein said. "One big accomplishment for us, besides making it to Saturday at state, is the fact that we didn't get shut out all year."
Skyview 6, Big Sky 0
All year Billings Skyview High girls soccer coach Cameron Icenoggle preached to his team that Saturday’s State AA state championship contest against Missoula Big Sky was just another game.
But as the seconds ticked down and the Falcons could sense the dream of a perfect season was becoming a reality, they knew it was much more.
When the whistle sounded, Skyview not only celebrated a 6-0 win at the Siebel Soccer Complex but an unblemished record and its first state championship in more than 25 years.
“This is unbelievable,” Icenoggle said. “Every day I told them to play with passion, to play with creativity and to play with courage. They did all three of those at a level I have never seen. No moment is too big for this group.”
Skyview had no problem scoring the ball in the first two games on Thursday and Friday as they found the back of the net five times and it didn’t waste any time, finding it once again.
In the sixth minute, junior Jordan Roe found Ashlyn Braun for the early lead. Twelve minutes later, Halle Labert sent a free kick in front of the goal to Braun as she scored her second goal of the game.
“Coming in with a game like this that has the two top scoring teams in the state, we said we were the top defensive team and let’s get out early and we know we can keep them at zero,” Icenoggle said.
Big Sky had chances to respond as Whitney Morrison pushed the ball up pitch but was intercepted right in front of the box. Minutes later Morrison sailed her first shot toward the goal but ended up sailing right of the mark.
The Eagles had another opportunity as Grasey Szwedkowicz got past the goal keeper but her shot was wide. By the end of the first half, Big Sky was looking at a 2-0 deficit, but coach Courtney Shields knew it was manageable.
“I told them statistically a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous lead to have and I knew we just had to play our game and do what we do and that is play Big Sky Eagle soccer,” Shields said.
Skyview kept its momentum during the second half as its offense pushed forward even more.
Roe’s free kick found Kayla Mader who cleared it to Julia Mader for the quick goal after halftime. Minutes later Halle Gertsch scored on a breakaway to put the Falcons ahead 4-0.
While happiness came from the Falcon’s tent, Shields had nothing but love to say about her team’s performance.
“There is obviously disappointment but what a tournament we had," Shields said. “I have absolute respect for Skyview. They are a good team.”
The Eagles finished their season improving their record by seven wins and will only graduate four players this spring.
Billings West 2, Missoula Sentinel 1: The Billings West girls soccer team claimed the third-place trophy after defeating Missoula Sintinel in the consolation finals.
Spartans senior Ashley McElmurry gave Sentinel the early 1-0 lead when she scored in the 11th minute but Billings West came roaring back with two goals by Amaya Winkler in the 12th and 23rd minutes to win the game.
Missoula Hellgate 2, Billings Senior 1: Missoula Hellgate finished fifth in the class AA state tournament after defeating Billings Senior.
Both of the Knights goals came off of penalty kicks from senior Madison Winters. She scored her first goal in the 20th minute followed by the second in the 39th minute.
Senior’s only goal came in the 46th minute when freshman Eliza Bentler scored on a pass from Sarah Maynard.