BHS Girls Soccer v. Billings Skyview

Alexa Coyle and 11 fellow seniors are looking to send the Hawks out winners this weekend in Kalispell.

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Erika Cannon knows a truth about this time of year.

Every team that qualifies for the Class AA state tournament feels good about itself, perhaps thinking that its talent, leadership or experience make it primed for a championship run.

She’s been in this position before and had that confidence turn into titles. She’s also had it fail to yield the desired results.

Her Bozeman team’s good vibes this year, ahead of today’s noon quarterfinal against Missoula Hellgate in Kalispell, though, appear to be well-placed. The Hawks are 12-0-2, have played in all types of games and have a 12-member senior class determined to go out winners.

“One year we won we had a smaller group of seniors … so it’s been kind of a good feeling for us going into state with a big group, but that doesn’t always determine how things go,” Cannon said. “It’s been a lot of fun working with this group — not just the seniors, but the seniors have been great friends to the younger players and brought them into the group. It’s nice to have that kind of leadership and experience on the team.”

The Hawks last won state when this class was in eighth grade. Bozeman fell in the semifinals in 2013 and 2015. It advanced to the final in 2014, only to fall to Great Falls CMR, 1-0.

“It was intense and it was a heart-breaker,” said senior defender Brooke Springer, a fourth-year varsity player. “It was really sad. We definitely want revenge from that, especially those of us that were sophomores then. We just want revenge for all the times we’ve been at the state championships and haven’t won. This is definitely our year.”

Added defender Clara Herman, “This is our last chance. For a lot of us, it’s right on the line. We haven’t won a championship and we’re excited. We really want it.”

This group has been playing together for far longer than that painful loss. Herman said she’s competed with some as far back as elementary school.

“The chemistry we have is really great,” added defender Jessica Andrew. “If we see each other in the hallways we’re always saying hi to each other. We go out to dinner. We have great chemistry, and I think it really shows on the field. … We understand our weaknesses and our strengths, and when we’re talking on the field, we know what to say to each other.”

That chemistry was on display through an unbeaten regular season. The Hawks rolled through conference play and have outscored opponents 70-11. They posted three straight shutouts to close the regular season and have not yielded a goal since Oct. 1’s 5-1 win over Billings Senior.

However, the Hawks are confident they’re well-prepared should they encounter a low-scoring or tightly contested game this week.

“Our team is strong enough to build out of that,” Andrew said. “A couple of games we were short and came back really hard. We have really good fitness so that really helps us (late in games).”

Added Cannon, “I think those (comebacks) will help us. It’s still tough because we haven’t had a ton of close-feeling games, even when the scores were close, so that’s a little bit tricky. But I feel like we’re ready for it and we’re more prepared than our opponents.”

First up in Bozeman’s pursuit are the Knights. The Hawks topped them in an early-season jamboree, but Cannon said that environment didn’t provide much of a scouting report.

“The idea of it is just to see the other side and it’s very friendly. I don’t take a lot from it,” she added. “We know they’re going to be good. Any team you play at state is going to be good and we’re ready for that challenge.”

Added Herman, “We know their record is pretty good this season. We won’t go in thinking that we’re just going to win. We have to work so hard.”

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

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