All the way back in summer, the Glacier girls soccer team had Missoula on the mind.
The last time the Wolfpack advanced to the Class AA state soccer tournament, senior co-captains Cadie Williams, Ellie Stevens and Lindsay McDonald were freshmen. Down to the final opportunity, this group of girls is leaving nothing to chance.
Glacier was 8-3-1 overall (6-3-1 in Western AA) and sitting in third place entering the final two games of the regular season: an Oct. 10 match against Missoula Sentinel (4-3-3) after the Beacon went to print and an Oct. 12 rivalry showdown against Flathead (0-9-1) at 6 p.m. at Legends Stadium.
After the final two matches, Glacier will host a playoff game that determines a trip to Missoula, the host of this year’s state tournament.
“This is tight-knit group that made a commitment to each other and they’re sticking with it,” head coach Brenden Byrd said.
A year ago, Glacier won only four games and was outscored by 20 goals in the regular season. Flathead ended the Wolfpack’s season with a playoff victory.
“After last year’s playoff loss, the girls went on to play basketball and track, but day one of summer, they checked into soccer,” Byrd said.
“The team is extremely competitive this year and really challenging each other with positions.”
Glacier is one of the smallest teams in terms of size, but the team’s collective confidence and skill far outweighs most competition. Williams, a speedy, versatile forward, is one of the best scorers in Montana with 19 goals, second most in the state behind Big Sky’s Whitney Morrison.
“This year I’m taking it on myself to try and lead for our team and set a good example,” Williams said.
Williams’ quickness and foot accuracy harkens back to another all-time great Glacier goal scorer, Maddey Frey. Williams began the season with four three-goal games in a row, setting the standard for this year’s team.
“We like to put goals away early and let teams chase us,” Byrd said. “We do play a very high-tempo offense.”
Glacier is outscoring opponents 30-16, led by tandem goalkeepers Sophie Smith and Ellie Keller.
In the third conference game of the season, Glacier defeated Helena Capital, last year’s runner-up squad, 4-1. Last weekend, Capital avenged the earlier loss with a 2-1 victory over Glacier, and both teams are neck and neck in the standings behind first-place Helena (7-1-2).
“We don’t give up. We play hard through the final whistle,” Stevens said.
“We all just bond really well together,” McDonald said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played with a team that looks out for one another better than this one.”
Byrd has been impressed by the team’s mental toughness as well, and he credits the senior leadership that stands out across Glacier’s class.
“The group of seniors we have this year is one that Glacier will miss through every program. It’s a great class,” he said. “These girls are involved in everything from academics to sports to mentoring programs. They do an outstanding job.”
For any senior, the excitement of finishing high school is ever present, but this group is trying to relish the moment and the opportunity to travel to Missoula to play in the state tourney for the first time in four years.
“It’s just more motivation. It’s senior year. I want to go out on a good note,” Williams said.
The Flathead girls finish the season against Glacier on Thursday and then Missoula Sentinel on Oct. 14. Shayenn Thompson leads the Bravettes in scoring with eight goals and Skyleigh Thompson has seven.
On the boys side, Glacier is sitting in third place in the West at 6-1-3 in conference. Flathead is in fifth at 3-5-2. The final crosstown showdown of the regular season is Thursday, Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. at Legends Stadium. That is Glacier’s regular-season finale, while Flathead finishes against Missoula Sentinel before the playoffs begin.
Hanson Eystad leads Flathead in scoring with 12 goals. Teammate Shaine Rieke has six goals. Rohit Tappeta has nine goals for Glacier, and Brady Schultz has seven.