The Lady Dogs gave it their all, but couldn’t keep up with the Billings Central Rams in Class A semifinal play on Saturday.
Whitefish fell to the Rams 7-0 at home in the precursor to the state title game for the second year in a row.
Despite a pair of goals by state-scoring leader Morgan Ferestad and another by Solei Elletson in the first half, the Lady Dogs went down only 3-0 at the half.
Billings’ Zoie Althoff picked up the scoring immediately in the second half, however, drilling a goal in the 42nd minute to open a run.
Ferestad notched a hat trick with a goal in the 48th minute. Abby Derbyshire and Sophia Bohl added goals later in the half to secure the win.
Bulldogs’ head coach Roland Benedict said if one looks past the score, there’s a deeper story to the game.
“I thought we played OK to be honest,” he said. “The game, besides the scoreline, was fairly even in terms of possession, passes completed. However, we were not dangerous going forward, and players didn’t take their chances, and because of that we didn’t create a lot of chances.”
If one does look at the score, however, there’s a different story.
The Achilles Heel of this Lady Dogs team has been inconsistent offensive firepower, which was on display when the team lost to the Rams earlier in the season by a 5-0 score.
In Saturday’s match, Whitefish only managed two shots on the Rams’ goal, while keeper Sami Galbraith had her hands full with 13 shots coming from Billings.
Benedict said it’s not about a lack of skilled players on his team, but there are challenges when facing off against teams with strong scorers like Ferestad or Columbia Falls’ Josie Windauer.
“It comes down to having a goal scorer, it’s rare,” Benedict said. “We have people that can score goals, but someone that’s a goal scorer is a lot rarer and we haven’t had a pure goal scorer in years. It makes the task difficult.”
Overall, the Lady Dogs finish the season with a 9-5 record and a 6-2 conference record, which was good for second place in the north.
Benedict said regardless of the ending, he’s happy with what his team accomplished this season.
“I think the season went really well,” he said. “If you look at Laurel and Billings in the last several years they’ve had a stranglehold on the state title. They’re coming from a community that is so large, so the population you’re dealing with and playing against is a drastic difference, and I think as a community we need to understand and appreciate the level of play that we’re producing to compete.”
This year’s team graduates seniors Josephine Brown, Grace Benkelman, Mary Peterson, Abigail Shaffer and Anna Cook, all of which have played huge roles on the team for years.
He’s happy with the future of the program, but his seniors will be tough to replace, Benedict said.
“They did unbelievably well by leading by example, working their tails off and learning as much as they can,” Benedict said. “They’re definitely soccer players and they put the work in and never backed down, encouraged the younger players and created a family.”
Billings Central 3 4 — 7
Whitefish 0 0 — 0
BC — Solei Elletson 7:00
BC — Morgan Ferestad 20:00
BC — Ferestad 22:00
BC — Zoie Althoff 42:00
BC — Ferestad 48:00
BC — Abby Derbyshire 60:00
BC — Sophia Bohl 71:00
Shots on goal — Billings Central 13, Whitefish 2; Goalie saves — Billings Central 2, Whitefish 6; Corner kicks — Billings Central 6, Whitefish 3; Fouls — Billings Central 8, Whitefish 5; Cards — None.