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Lady Bulldogs’ state title pursuit stopped up by Billings Central in semis

by WHITNEY ENGLAND
Whitefish Pilot | October 27, 2021 1:00 AM

From the score alone Billings Central’s 5-1 win over Whitefish in the girls soccer semifinal game Saturday looks like a one-sided affair, but rarely a final score tells the whole story.

Billings Central played well, but so did the Bulldogs according to Whitefish coach Roland Benedict. Whitefish won the possession battle, had just as many shots on target and completed more passes than the Rams, the coach recalls. However Billings Central was able to precisely get the ball in behind Whitefish’s defense more often and score on those opportunities.

“5-1 it looks like we got dominated, but in the grand scheme we were more in control and they were a little more incisive than we were in the attacking phases — they were able to capitalize on their chances,” Benedict said.

When looking at stats and game film, Benedict stated his team clearly was not dominated despite conceding five goals.

“When you play a good team like Billings and they play a great team like us, I don’t think the term dominated can be used,” he said. “We had 60% possession, we completed more passes, we had less turnovers, equal amount of recoveries; they had 10 goal kicks to our five, so they were consistently having to play out, they didn’t get out often, and when they did they scored.”

The game started off with a goal in the 9th minute by Billings’ Abby Derbyshire who, looking to cross the ball into the box from the end line, somehow curved it right into the net from an almost impossible angle. Then just four minutes later, Derbyshire got the ball in behind Whitefish’s defense and challenged goalkeeper Norah Schmidt for a 1-on-1 chance.

Benedict says those two goals tampered with the Lady Bulldog’s confidence to start the game.

“The first goal took the wind out of our sails, especially the way and the type of goal that was scored, and even the second one… that’s good play from the Billings side, you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due,” Benedict said. “But the ball bounced in the right way for them in a lot of aspects in the first phase and they capitalized on those moments. We were a little out of sync getting in behind and when we did we didn’t capitalize on the moments we created.”

Before the end of the first half the Rams had scored another this time from Kendall Wahl which gave them a 3-0 lead at the break.

Derbyshire got past Whitefish keeper Schmidt once more in the 55th minute to complete a hat trick. The Bulldogs responded right away when senior Emma Barron scored off a pass from Sophie Olson just a minute later.

Whitefish conceded one more goal in the game when Rams’ Ava Yates scored in the 60th minute.

“They never gave up, they never folded and they kept fighting; I think that’s why we did continue to concede goals because we were on the front foot, we were taking risks, we were trying to get in behind, trying to create chances to score goals,” Benedict said. “We didn’t take our foot off the pedal and we didn’t stop trying to be dangerous, and it shows how confident this team was. It’s a tough go, but that’s what it is.”

Last season Whitefish upset Billings Central in the semifinals in a physical 1-0 match which sent them to the state championship against Laurel. The Bulldogs were hoping to get back to another state final, but the loss leaves them just short of that goal.

Despite not making the final this season, Whitefish, led by a large group of seniors, had a successful year winning the Northern A conference title for the second-straight year and earning another undefeated regular season.

“This team showed… that they're going to play an exceptionally high level, an intelligent level of soccer and were going to pioneer that for our program,” Benedict said. “When we do turn the corner and win a state title, because in our opinion it’s an inevitability, it’s going to be because of this senior class and the legacy they’ve left behind.

“It’s not the way they want to go out, but they can definitely hold their heads high,” he added

Class A semifinals

Saturday

Billings Central 5, Whitefish 1

Whitefish 0 1 — 1

Billings Central 3 2 — 5

BC — Abby Derbyshire 9:00

BC — Derbyshire 13:00

BC — Kendall Wahl 29:00

BC — Derbyshire 55:00

WF — Emma Barron (Sophie Olson) 56:00

BC — Ava Yates 60:00