Editor's note: Story by 406 Sports.
BILLINGS — The Billings West girls soccer team gave up its first goal in nearly 750 minutes Tuesday night. But that was hardly any consolation to Missoula Hellgate, nor really any worry to the Golden Bears.
No, by virtue of a 5-1 semifinal win over the Knights at Amend Park, the Bears are once again playing for the Class AA state championship, a title they won in 2019 before being knocked out of the quarterfinals last season by this same Hellgate program.
West will host — either Friday or Saturday — Bozeman Gallatin, which was a 1-0 winner over Helena earlier in the day Tuesday, with the title on the line. The Bears (15-0-2) and Raptors (12-1-4) met twice during the regular season and drew both times: 0-0 to start the season and 1-1 in the second meeting.
“They’ve given us everything we can handle and we will expect nothing less (in the championship),” West coach Rob Zimmerman said. “It should be a fun one.”
There was plenty of fun to go around for West in this one. Early goals from Mary Speare and Sophie Sievertsen gave the Bears a 2-0 lead just 14 minutes in, and it quickly became evident that West wasn’t going to let penalty kicks decide Tuesday’s match like they did against the Knights in last year’s playoffs.
Chloe Davies put the Bears up 3-0 by halftime and Speare scored again on her own rebound in the 58th minute for a 4-0 advantage. The Knights struck back just moments later on an Ashley Young goal from Chloe Anderson, but Emma Lensing slotted home a Davies pass into the box in the 67th to ice the match on what turned out to be a chilly evening at Amend Park.
“Honestly, I was just trying to take it minute by minute and get to the end of the game,” said Davies, who finished with two assists on the night to go along with her goal. “And, I think that also worked out for the team because here we are.
“We’ve barely had any goals scored against us the whole season and I want to give the defense a pat on the back for that, too, because they don’t get the credit they deserve. But five goals (tonight) is obviously tremendous and it feels pretty satisfying.”
For the Knights, their season ends at 13-3-1. They dropped out in the semifinals for the second season in a row.
“We had a successful season, you know, a great group, a group of players there that fought until the end,” Hellgate coach Natalie Hiller-Claridge said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them. It’s a disappointment for our seniors, you know. We are never afraid to say what we want is to win state. And so to have it taken away tonight is hard.”
So far this posteason the Bears have outscored their opponents 21-1, and Hellgate’s goal stopped a clean sheet streak of eight consecutive matches.
The last team to score on the Bears, before the Knights? That’d be Gallatin, back when the teams played to that 1-1 draw on Sept. 23.
“It’s been a fantastic season and I’m just super excited for the girls,” Zimmerman said. “They’ve put in a lot of hard work. I think we’re playing our best soccer at the end of the year when you’re supposed to be and I feel like we’re peaking at the right time. I’m just really excited for them and for the opportunity to play for a state championship.”