At the team’s season-ending banquet Tuesday night, Carl Bridwell announced to players and parents that he was stepping down as head coach of the girls soccer team at Belgrade High.

Bridwell had been a part of the program for eight years, which includes the past three as head coach. The Panthers went 5-30-5 during his tenure at the helm and finished 2-13-0 this past season.

“After eight years, not only have I felt like I’ve done my best, but now there’s a new chapter opening up in my life with my son,” said Bridwell. “And as all the parents know family’s important and that time (together). I didn’t want to lose that.”

Bridwell and his wife welcomed a son this past spring, which led to the decision to step away.

“Whatever their path is ahead I just really wanted them to know that it had nothing to do with any wins, loses or anything of that nature,” he said. “It’s just more of a new door is opening up in my life and I had to close some other ones to make it happen.”

Prior to moving up to Class AA, the program had a very successful run in Class A and won state titles in 2005 and 2007. After a couple of tough years beginning in 2012, Belgrade was revitalized under the direction of Celine Valentin.

The Panthers reached the semifinals in 2016 and 2018 with Bridwell serving as an assistant coach. Then he guided the team into AA where they got off to a promising start in 2019.

“I’m always going to be proud of the fact that we have etched our names into the history book of having the first ever win in double A against Great Falls a few years ago,” Bridwell said. “But also the fact that in my three years in our tenure in double A so far we were never the last place team. We were always the six or the seven place seed.”

Belgrade finished seventh in the Eastern AA standings this past season and was shut out in nine of its 14 matches. But Bridwell noted the progress that was made.

“That last regular season loss against Gallatin was probably the best soccer I’ve ever seen Belgrade play because it was team soccer and I was really proud of that,” he said. “That’s what we’re aiming to build and whoever is the head coach next I hope they continue that methodology of soccer. Not just what is the best way to win and actually growing the players as people through a team sport.”

Belgrade Activities Director Toby Robinson plans to advertise the position as soon as possible, and stressed the need to have a head coach in place to conduct off-season training.

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