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Bozeman lacrosse rolls to its seventh MHSLA state title

EAST HELENA — Six abreast and sporting grins, Bozeman's all-state lacrosse honorees returned to their comrades sitting in a semicircle on the turf like gladiators returning from battle.

Pi Taylor, Bodin Flair, Harrison Wolpoe, Jack Mayr, Carter Fust and Austin Baller, who made up half of the Montana High School Lacrosse Association's first team, were cheered by hundreds of people Saturday as they received awards and their gear (helmets, gloves , sticks), scattered across the battlefield in the foreground of a setting sun.

As state champions again, Bozeman threw up its gear and celebrated a 10-4 victory over Northwest Avalanche (Kalispell), its seventh straight title (in eight years).

“It’s really hard to describe,” said Taylor, a three-time state champion. “Probably one of the better feelings I’ve had in my entire life.”

Bozeman's boys lacrosse team won the Montana High Division I state championship for the seventh consecutive year (in eight years) with a 10-4 victory over Northwest Avalanche (Kalispell) on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in East Helena School Lacrosse Association. Gary Marshall, BMGphotos.com

“[The feeling] “After so much stress, but also the anticipation of winning, it’s kind of a crazy feeling,” said Wyatt Stoddart, another threesome. “Last game. I don't know how to describe it. It's honestly just a magical feeling.”

Fittingly, Bozeman scored seven straight goals on Saturday to take control.

Stoddart, Cooper Walker and Bode Naffziger (assistant to Sawyer Rogers) all scored in a 90-second avalanche to end the second quarter.

Wolpoe set up two goals less than three minutes into the third period, and Flair's second goal of the game put Bozeman within double figures.

“We've been trying to put together a complete game all season and I think we finally did it,” said Baller, a four-time state champion goalie.

“To do our best [in] The last game of the season is something very special. I think all the gears started clicking and we played like we should.”

Bozeman's Cooper Walker (#55) scored two goals in the MHSLA Division I state championship game at East Helena on Saturday. Bozeman defeated Northwest Avalanche (Kalispell) 10-4 to win its seventh straight title (in eight years). Gary Marshall, BMGphotos.com

Four different Bozeman players (Stoddart, Flair, Walker, Henry Scott) avenged a week-long 9-8 overtime loss to Kalispell by scoring two goals each on Saturday.

“Honestly, this is the best I’ve seen from this team [focused], at all, this last week,” said Taylor, an aspiring NAVY fighter pilot. “Last weekend we got a little slap in the face and when we came back we were ready to go…

“We knew they would take our spot and this time we were ready for them.”

Bozeman's Bodin Flair scored two goals in the MHSLA Division I state championship game at East Helena on Saturday. Bozeman defeated Northwest Avalanche (Kalispell) 10-4 to win its seventh straight title (in eight years). Gary Marshall

Baller, a senior who finished two different sports careers (football) with a state championship, leaves behind an unparalleled legacy.

Win No. 60 in 64 tries over a four-year span, with only Bozeman's team name gracing a plaque on the silver state kit, their 2019 title and three since (four counting Saturday) the 2020 “lost season” (COVID). .

Baller turned back his opponent's best performance since 2021 to earn the No. 4 All-State selection on Saturday and finished his club career with just two losses at state (both against Kalispell) – the same number of state titles that came against Kalispell were won.

“His attention to detail,” Wolpoe said of what makes Baller so good. “He just knows the game…”

“He knows where the people are and he's a real teammate, a real captain and an all-around great person…He's always been the best leader. You can’t deny him the gate, he’s a wall.”

Bozeman lacrosse goaltender Austin Baller ended his career as a four-time all-state selection and state champion after a 10-4 victory over Northwest Avalanche (Kalispell) on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in East Helena. Bozeman has a 60-4 record over the last four years. Gary Marshall

According to one definition, legacy means “something that is passed on.”

For Bozeman, this is the path to victory.

Passed from class to class like the trophy floating from player to player for celebratory photos on Saturday.

Stoddart said it's a mentality of “getting the best shot for our team,” a system in which players anticipate the best chances and patterns both offensively and defensively, and only by observing, imitating and composing under good guidance have learned.

As the victorious team stormed from the sideline with long shadows on the green turf, Bozeman players tossed pieces needed for the fight into the air that were no longer needed.

Some lifted their teammates off the ground, others grabbed each other's necks.

Everyone smiled.

Bozeman's boys lacrosse team won the Montana High Division I state championship for the seventh consecutive year (in eight years) with a 10-4 victory over Northwest Avalanche (Kalispell) on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in East Helena School Lacrosse Association. Pictured: Bodin Flair (#29) lifts a teammate into the air to celebrate a goal. Gary Marshall, BMGphotos.com

“We built a legacy here,” Baller said. “That’s because we do things right and work really hard…

“We have built a really good culture here that knows how to win. We maintain our legacy year after year.”

Elsewhere in Division I (Men)

The No. 5 seed Missoula Wild defeated No. 6 seed Helena West 11-6 to earn third place.

Helena East defeated Beartooth 12-8 to place fifth.

Northwest Avalanche's Grady Robinson scored a goal and assisted on another in a 10-4 MHSLA state title game loss to Bozeman on Saturday. Gary Marshall

Anna Harden

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