Though Billings Senior had the run of things in the first half, its girls soccer match with Billings West was scoreless at the break, and there was uneasiness in the Broncs’ camp.
“After the first half we were kind of panicky, like, we haven’t scored yet, so we were kind of frustrated,” Senior’s Gabi Heflin said. “But then (coach Megan Parish) told us to just relax, it will be fine. We still got a little jumpy in the second half, but we took a deep breath, and finally one went in.”
And it was Heflin who had the winning touch, taking Maddy Emerick’s curling direct kick from 18 yards and putting it in the net in the 68th minute for a 1-0 Broncs victory Tuesday night at Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium.
Senior, the defending State AA champion, outshot West 10-2 in the first half, and that trend continued in the second. But West’s strong back-line play and six saves by keeper Abbie Donaldson helped keep the game scoreless until Heflin’s late strike.
In fact, Donaldson had initially thwarted Heflin’s volley, but the ball ricocheted right back to her and the junior forward was able to make her second chance stick.
The Broncs held on the rest of the way, and even created a couple more chances in the closing minutes. But that just continued the theme of the night, where Senior had plenty of chances — 20 shots — but struggled to capitalize.
Still, Parish was more than happy to take home the three points from the victory.
“It was a hard-fought game. It was physical,” Parish said. “It’s good to win those close games, that shows a lot about your team. This early in the season I’m proud of them.”
With Senior (2-0-0) controlling the midfield, the Broncs spent most of the match in West’s third. One of the Bears’ best scoring chances came early in the second half when Broncs keeper Clancee Ferrin dove to her right to corral a shot from Mika Robinson to preserve the 0-0 score.
In all, though, it was a better showing for the Bears than their opener, according to first-year coach Crystal McCamis. The Bears (0-2-0) lost to Bozeman 6-0 on Saturday.
“This was a huge improvement for us,” said McCamis, who was an assistant with Parish for five seasons before taking over the West program this season. “We just came out as a team and played hard, which we didn’t do on Saturday. It just shows when we play as a team how much we’ve improved, and hopefully we can continue to play with the best teams in the state.”
“I thought West played a great game defensively,” Parish said. “They had us frustrated and definitely had our forwards kind of running in circles. We knew we were going to have to be creative in the second half to get a goal and I thought we played better in the second half.”