The two-time defending state champs are back in the Class A soccer playoffs in dogged pursuit of a three-peat. Whitefish clinched yet another Northern A conference title this fall and enters this week’s playoffs with a 9-1-2 overall record, 6-0-2 in conference.
The Bulldogs host Livingston (7-5-1, 3-3-0) in the opening round of the state championship series on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Smith Fields. The Whitefish girls, who also won their respective conference title, also host Livingston in the playoff opener, at noon at Smith Fields.
The second-place team in Northern A, Libby (4-5-2, 4-1-2), travels to Southern A champ Stevensville (11-0-1, 7-0-1) on Saturday for a 3 p.m. match. Northern A’s third-place squad, Bigfork (3-7-2, 3-4-1), travels to Eastern A champ Billings Central (9-1-2, 5-0-1).
Stevensville rolls into the playoffs as the top challenger to Whitefish. The Yellowjackets dealt the Bulldogs their first defeat in 33 matches earlier this season, winning 5-2 at Smith Fields. Whitefish had not lost since the 2011 season. The Bulldogs also tied with Columbia Falls and Libby this season.
Whitefish senior Nathan Boone has tallied 14 goals and 18 assists, leading the state in total points. Junior Jared Johnson has scored 18 goals, second most in the state behind only Chris Brayton of Belgrade’s 19.
Whitefish defeated Billings Central 4-1 last fall to win its second consecutive state title.
The Whitefish girls retook the conference title from two-time winner Columbia Falls, finishing the regular season 10-2, 7-1.
The girls are back in the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons and host Livingston (2-7-3, 1-4-0) in the playoff opener. Freshman Haley Nicholson leads the Lady Bulldogs with 17 goals, fourth most in the state.
Columbia Falls, last year’s state runner-up squad, is also back in the hunt. The Wildkats placed second in Northern A at 6-2-3, 5-1-1. The girls ended the regular season on a high note, beating Whitefish 2-1 last week. They travel to Southern A champ Hamilton (11-0-1, 7-0-1) for the playoff opener. Haley Purdy leads the Wildkats with 14 goals.
The third team from Northern A, Polson (6-5-1, 4-3-1), travels to Eastern A champ Billings Central (12-0, 6-0). Sarah Howell is the Lady Pirates’ top scorer with 13 goals.
Billings Central remains the powerhouse team-to-beat and has the state’s best scorer, Allie Lucas, who notched 30 goals this fall.
The Lady Rams defeated Columbia Falls 6-0 a year ago to win their fifth consecutive title.
The playoffs are single elimination with a first round, semifinals and championship.
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