HELENA — In a tightly contested field of worthy candidates, Helena High’s Claire Benedetti has been selected the 2018 Independent Record’s Girls All-Area Soccer Player of the Year.

Benedetti, a senior forward and the Bengals top goal producer, finished the regular season as the Western AA Conference’s sixth leading scorer with eight goals and an assist for 17 points.

And perhaps the most impressive thing about her achievement was that Benedetti scored her goals in just 11 games, having missed one outing due to a broken nose.

“Oh wow. It’s such an honor to be chosen out of the many talented girls throughout Helena,” said Benedetti, regarding her selection as player of the year.

Teammate Sarah Mueller related that Benedetti “has always had good technical footwork on the ball,” which allowed her to create a lot of scoring opportunities for their team.

“Claire always puts 110 percent into games, as well as practices, and handled the role of captain very well,” Mueller said.

Early in the season, Benedetti – whose favorite international player is Tobin Heath – scored twice in a 3-3 tie against Missoula Sentinel at Siebel Fields. With Helena trailing 3-2 and 14 minutes remaining in the game, her second goal knotted the score and salvaged a tie for the 2017 state champion Bengals.

Her first goal was assisted by Regan Maronick, while the second was unassisted – after she beat two defenders at midfield – for a bomb from about 30 yards out.

The following weekend, sparked by another double-goal effort from Benedetti, Helena overcame a 2-0 deficit to outscore Glacier 5-1 the remainder of the game, and won going away 5-3

Benedetti’s third two-goal effort of the year came in a 4-3 loss on the road to Sentinel. Her first tally was assisted by Elsa Grebenc, and the second came on a penalty kick. But she then took a hard elbow to the face and had to leave the game with a broken nose.

The injury forced her to miss the second crosstown game, a 2-0 loss, before returning to action the next weekend for two matches up in Kalispell. In a 2-1 loss to Glacier, Benedetti assisted on Grebenc’s goal.

The Bengals closed out the regular season on a high note, upsetting conference champion Missoula Big Sky 2-1. It was one of just two losses the Eagles suffered during the regular season.

No. 5 Helena was then was stymied 4-0 in their playoff versus Sentinel in Missoula, causing the six-time Western Conference champion Bengals to miss the state tournament for the first time since 2010.

“I’m so grateful for my amazing teammates and coaches this season, so I would like to thank them,” Benedetti said. “I would also like to thank my family for supporting me through everything.”

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Associate Sports Editor

Associate Sports Editor for The Independent Record

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