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The 12 girls who compose Erika Cannon’s senior class have never won a Class AA state championship.

They will have a chance to lead Bozeman to its first title since 2012 this afternoon after a 3-0 semifinal win over Missoula Sentinel on Friday in Kalispell.

“Really, we’re all just excited we get this chance again, especially since for most of us it’s our last chance to go all the way,” midfielder Emma Carey said. “We’ve been preparing for four years for this and we’re ready and determined to take it. It’s not an option for us. The only way we’re leaving is as state champs.”

It took some determination and more than a little mental toughness against the Spartans, as the teams played scoreless for the first 32 minutes. Cannon said her side had several good chances early.

“Some really good ones,” the coach acknowledged. “Alexa (Coyle) had a breakaway and we had a couple of crosses that we missed, along with a couple of good corners, also.”

In the 33rd minute, senior forward Lizzie Rich beat a defender along the end line and then crossed to fellow senior forward Abby Ross, who touched the ball in for a 1-0 advantage.

“We kind of had to settle in a little bit, and after our first goal we really started playing our style again,” Carey said. “It just became more fun and we were making our shots and playing the way we’ve been practicing and playing all season.”

Added senior midfielder Keely Lane, “We did have the run of play for most the game. It took a while to get on the scoreboard, and it was frustrating at first, but nobody got discouraged. Everybody knew it was just a matter of time.”

The Hawks came out of intermission in an offensive rhythm, according to Cannon, and put pressure on the Sentinel defense immediately. Goals from junior Olivia Kaiser and senior Keely Kempt followed in the opening five minutes, along with several other dangerous opportunities. The first came on a series of passes in close, and a corner kick set up the second.

“We were getting good support, (and on) those chances you’re going to have people into the box and we did a good job of that,” Cannon said. “It was just a really good team effort. Every player was on and having to really work hard.”

After the third goal, the Hawks had to protect their lead for more than 36 minutes. With a championship game appearance waiting on the other side of the final whistle, it seemed to take far longer.

The end result was Bozeman’s fifth consecutive shutout dating to Oct. 1.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking for me because we had so much time to preserve the lead and a lot can happen,” senior midfielder Elaine Chandler said. “With a team like Sentinel, they have some dangerous players and there can be counter-attacks. We kept telling each other to stay composed and stay clam. We’ve practiced scenarios like this and we felt good about it. … For me personally, in that situation I usually play back more and maybe some other midfielders will be more cognizant of staying back and not taking a ton of risk.”

Bozeman will meet Helena Capital in today’s title game at 12:30 p.m. The Bruins knocked off Billings’ Senior on Thursday and West on Friday afternoon. The Hawks haven’t seen the West’s No. 3 seed since a 6-1 win in last year’s quarterfinal.

“We don’t know a lot about them other than they’ve been coming on as of late,” Cannon said. “We’ve got to be ready for that style of play in terms of them being on a good roll and playing well.”

The Hawks are playing well, too, and find themselves on the brink of an unbeaten season.

“I know how exciting it is to be in the final game and how much is on the line,” Lane said. “We have a big team and a ton of seniors and it’s our last chance to win it.”

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Parker Gabriel can be reached at or 582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @pgabriel15.

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