State championships don’t always come around all that often. But don’t tell the Hi-Line United U19 co-ed soccer team that, as they turned a successful 2012 regular season into a successful postseason, capturing their second consecutive state title.
The United spent la
st Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the pitch in Great Falls. And after four games, resulting in two ties and two wins, the United reemerged as the best classic U19 team in the state.
“In the years that I have coached,” United head coach Briyan Flores said. “I have never experienced a group of kids like we had this year. The chemistry we talked about all season was not an issue towards the end as the bond the kids created is beyond belief. This team is more than a unit, they are a family and it showed this past weekend.”
On Friday, Hi-Line and Miles City reunited their growing rivalry, but neither team was able to edge the other. Instead, the United had to overcome a 3-1 halftime deficit just to escape with a 5-5 tie. Logan Pike had two goals for the United, while Payton Robertson, Carlos Tovar and Erik Woodwick all scored one goal each. Troy Mord and Tovar also had one assist each. And in total, the United had 19 shots on goal, while in the net, Evan Flathers had nine saves.
“The kids worked very hard and never gave up the fight,” Assistant head coach Pam Olson said.
But that same no-quit attitude was needed again in the United’s second game of the weekend. This time playing Lewistown, another rivalry, the United found themselves in an extremely tight matchup. Neither team was giving ground, and neither team was gaining ground, and this time at the end of 90 minutes of hard fought action, the United was locked into a 3-3 tie.
Jayson Burrington, Sam Lippy and Tovar all had one goal, and Woodwick earned an assist. This time Taran Huestis was in the net and tallied 12 saves.
After pool play was over, finishing with two ties, the United now found themselves tied for second place. The entire bracket had several matches ending in a tie, and since the United had more goals for than against the two other teams, a second-place tie was where they landed. And as a reward, the United had to face Miles City for the second time.
But with a state title within reach, this time around the United didn’t settle for a tie. Instead, the United grabbed a 2-1 win and advanced to the title match. Robertson and Tovar scored one goal each. Tovar also had an assist, while Huestis earned nine saves. Huestis didn’t have to do much, as the United defense played a strong game and limited Miles City’s attack.
On Sunday, the weather made its mark on the title game and made it a little more difficult for the United to earn a win. With strong winds and constant rain, the title game consisted of two 30 minute halves rather than two 45 minute halves. And instead of two 10 minute halves at the end of regulation, the game went straight to penalty kicks after both teams found themselves locked in a 4-4 tie.
During the regular season, the United defeated Big Timber two separate times. But this was the state tournament, and a brand new matchup. The United trailed 3-1 at intermission, but that no quit attitude that had been on display all weekend by Hi-Line showed up yet again. This time the United outscored the Wolves 3-1 in the final 30 minutes, pushing the match to a penalty shootout.
The Wolves scored their first two shots, but that was all Huestis would allow. And the United scored four straight penalty kicks to earn the title for the second straight year.
Pike scored two goals and Tovar and Flathers both scored one. Huestis had five saves. Woodwick, Robertson, Lippy and Burrington all scored penalty kicks for the United as well.
“The year was full of adversity and injuries,” Flores said. “But the kids fought through every bit of it. The immense heart that they showed is a true testament of who they are and the determination they have. I am truly impressed with each and every one of our kids as they proved to themselves and everyone who they are and why they trained so hard for six months. This group of kids is the epitome of the word team.”