HELENA — The Shodair Soccer Classic is supposed to feature the top high school soccer players in an East versus West matchup.
And it did for the most part.
But on Saturday afternoon at Carroll College’s Nelson Stadium, there was a third opponent in the mix.
A group of thunderstorms rolled through, causing delays up to two hours. As a result, the games were cut down to 30 minute halves, but that didn’t spoil the competition on the field. The girls teams battled to a 0-0 tie while the West defeated the East 2-1 in the boys game.
"It was a great day,” Shodair Children’s Hospital CEO Craig Aasved said. “You are getting the best of the best soccer players from the state of Montana. This is all bringing awareness to what Shodair is and what they do.”
Following a near hour-long lightning delay just as the girls game was going to kick off, both teams finally made their way back to the field.
And the sun was shining brightly on the defense.
The West came out aggressively in the first half as Missoula Sentinel’s Quinn Peacock sailed a shot over the goal.
Minutes later, the Helena pair of Capital’s Kinzi Adams and Helena High’s Melina Hammer were also given scoring opportunities, but they came up short.
The East had its first scoring opportunity midway through the first half, when some miscommunication by the West led to a shot on goal by Bozeman’s Hana Scott.
No matter how many scoring attempts both teams were given, the defenses stood their ground. After the first 30 minutes of play, the game remained scoreless.
“This game was a pretty good reflection of how Montana girls (soccer players) come out and play with fire,” West coach Courtney Shields said. “Both teams battled really well.”
Both defenses stayed strong during the second half, but that's not to say there were no opportunities.
The West had its best chance to score in the 38th minute, when Polson’s Ashlee Howell snuck past the East goal keeper, but her shot was offline.
The East had one more opportunity when Butte’s Ally Cleverly had a strike blocked by Helena’s Ellie Stock just before more lightning was spotted.
The game was ended 10 minutes before the end of regulation.
“This was a goal I wanted to do before my high school career was over,” said Cleverly, who won the game’s MVP award. “I’ve always wanted to play in this game. There was some really good competition.”
West boys rally to defeat East
The boys game started about an hour after lightning ended the girls game and, from the start, it looked like it was going to be another defensive matchup.
Hellgate’s Matthew Baldridge got behind the East’s defense, but his pass into the box was just off course.
The East responded with scoring attempts that first game off a corner kick, but Great Falls’ Zachary Langel missed his shot. Belina Neufield also handed his Billings Senior teammate Caleb Borgstrom a pass, but the shot was wide left.
Finally, scoring came in the second half as the East took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Bozeman’s Ted Scott.
The lead did not last long, however, before Baldridge rallied his team and scored with 25 minutes left.
All it took was one more goal by Polson’s Mack Modrie to complete the West comeback.
“I was running along with my teammate and there was an open area on right. As soon as he passed it into that open area, I knew my shot was golden,” Modrie said.
After the game, Flathead’s Walt Hollensteiner was named the MVP and couldn’t imagine ending his high school career any other way.
“This was a wonderful experience and I want to say thank you to Shodair for putting it on,” Hollensteiner said. “These are the best players in the state and I loved playing with them.”