(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Halil Yilmaz delivered a heroic hat trick in his Montana State University Billings debut Thursday afternoon at Maverick Field, lifting his team to a dramatic, 3-2 overtime victory over Texas A&M International University in the 2021 season opener.
The junior striker tucked the golden goal off the right post and into the back of the net with 10 seconds left in the first overtime period, prompting a wild celebration on the field as the ‘Jackets won their season-opener for the first time since the 2012 campaign. “It was like fireworks exploding in my stomach, and I have never experienced anything like that before,” said Yilmaz, whose last hat trick came during his U-19 academy season. “We don’t play golden goal in Europe, so to win in the last second is something else.”
“Going to overtime is never easy, but we found a way to score the third goal and win the game,” said MSUB head coach Thomas Chameraud, who was a player on the field the last time MSUB claimed a victory in the opening game of a season. “What a great performance for Halil - three goals in his first game for MSUB. He was tremendous for us, but also it was a great team effort to come back three times and get the win. Mentally our guys were really strong.”
Yilmaz converted a penalty kick in the 44th minute to give his team the lead, before scoring again in the 63rd minute to push MSUB ahead 2-1 midway through the second half. “Overtime is just about the team who wants it more, and we wanted it today,” said the German international, who has been on the team’s roster since the fall of 2019 but had not played in an official contest until Thursday. “I saw it coming the last couple of weeks through preseason, and this was the reward for the work we have been putting in for four weeks.”
TAMIU’s Kristian Colaci matched Yilmaz the first two steps of the way, as he scored both of the Dustdevils’ goals to help keep his team in the match until the end.
Jeremie Briquet provided the assist on Yilmaz’s winner, while Marvin Putu had the assist on the striker’s second goal of the match. “It’s great for the guys, because it was a long trip for us yesterday,” Chameraud said. “The guys showed up today ready to play. I thought the first half was good, and we had good control of the ball. In the second half we didn’t have enough possession, and they got control of the game. After they tied us it was a great reaction to score again. It was a story of staying as solid as we could, but unfortunately they scored a great goal in the top corner.”
MSUB (1-0) earned a dangerous chance less than two minutes into the match, but a promising long free kick into the box from Mathias Kjølner carried just wide of the far post. Georgios Theodoulidis came up with his first big save of the match on an ensuing counter attack, sliding to his right to smother a shot by Yuki Tatsuma. The freshman shot stopper earned his first collegiate victory with three saves throughout his 100 minutes.
Yilmaz’s first goal of the match was perhaps his easiest, as Paul Cuevas drew a foul on Dustdevil goalkeeper Natxo Faus inside the box to earn a penalty kick. The junior calmly converted from 12 yards out to push MSUB ahead 1-0 in the 44th minute. “In the first half we super dominated, and they didn’t have dangerous attacks,” said Yilmaz. “It was very well deserved for us going into halftime with the 1-0 lead. In the second half they started pressing higher, possession shifted a little bit, and they converted one mistake from us to a goal. What was impressive is we didn’t get into a hole, kept going, and after that we scored the second one on a great assist by Marvin Putu.”
The Yellowjackets maintained the edge in possession throughout the opening 45 minutes, and won four corner kicks while allowing two. TAMIU (0-1) leveled the score in the 60th minute, taking advantage of a defensive miscue. Johan Portales nudged a pass through the back line, and Colaci easily finished a shot into the lower-left corner of the net.
The ‘Jackets nearly pulled ahead immediately after conceding the equalizer, as a deflected shot by Tybalt Thornberry required a leaping save by Faus. Yilmaz got on the end of an ensuing corner kick delivery, but his attempt carried off of the crossbar.
Yilmaz’s brace came just two minutes after his near-miss on the corner kick, as Putu found him with a stellar cross-field pass from the right side of the pitch. Timing his run into the box perfectly, Yilmaz beat his defender and blasted a left-footed shot from a tight angle into the lower-right corner of the side netting.
Colaci nearly notched a brace in the 83rd minute, but his close-range header smashed off the left goal post as the ‘Jackets dodged a bullet. Two minutes later however, the striker rescued his squad with a top-corner, left-footed strike from outside the box that left Theodoulidis with no chance to stop.
Colaci had a look at a hat trick inside of two minutes to go in the first overtime period, but Theodoulidis leapt up to snag his right-footed shot from the top of the box as it was headed for the upper corner of the goal. With time running low, Briquet found himself in space in the midfield and lofted a through ball past the back line and onto the foot of Yilmaz. An expertly-placed, curling strike with the outside of his left foot beat a charging Faus and ended the match.
TAMIU held a narrow 12-10 advantage in shots, while each team had five corner kicks in what was overall an evenly-played affair.
The ‘Jackets are back in action on Saturday afternoon, with a 1 p.m. kickoff at Colorado State-Pueblo.
Meantime, despite an aggressive offensive start to the 2021 season Thursday night MSUB's women were shut out 1-0 by host Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
On a soggy evening that began with steady rainfall, the Yellowjackets (0-1) out-shot the Wolves (1-0) 15-9 in the match and placed 10 of their shot attempts on frame. But NSU goalkeeper Alexus Townsend made 10 saves and the Wolves’ back line did enough to keep the Yellowjackets out of the net.
Megan Fastenau netted the game’s only goal in the 60th minute, which stood as the game-winner. “What a good first test of the season for us,” said MSUB head coach Stephen Cavallo. “The elements, the opposition’s home opener, and a very organized and aggressive Northern State team. We are pleased with large portions of the match, but unfortunately we did not do enough to score and get the win.”
Taylor Gertsch elevated to clear a dangerous corner kick cross out of the box 10 minutes into the match, and Clare Keenan handled an ensuing shot attempt as the ‘Jackets prevented a serious scoring threat early on. It was the first of countless challenges Gertsch won throughout the evening, as she bridged the gap from back line to forwards well and was a dominant presence in the air.
The ‘Jackets knocked on the door in the 19th minute, when a low shot from Jillian Hust skidded just wide of the far post. MSUB won its second corner kick of the half on the play, but the Wolves were able to clear the cross without issue. The ‘Jackets wound up with three corner kicks in the opening 45 minutes, but could not convert. MSUB commanded possession for the majority of the opening half, and out-shot NSU 7-4 in the period on the way to a 0-0 deadlock at the break.
Fresh into the game midway through the opening half, Liberty Palmer unleashed a powerful left-footed shot from the right corner of the box that Townsend smothered for another save. The freshman landed another dangerous shot on frame in the next minute on a square pass from Gertsch, which Townsend had to make a sliding save on.
With 30 minutes remaining, Townsend played a long ball out of the goal box that caught the wet turf and skidded all the way through into the attacking third. Fastenau streaked forward and after taking a touch blasted a dipping shot inside the near post to put the hosts ahead 1-0.
The Wolves’ back line had to clear a dangerous cross out of the six-yard box with 12 minutes to play, resulting in a corner kick for the ‘Jackets. NSU remained well-organized in the box however, rising up to knock away the service and prevent a Yellowjacket shot.
It wound up being the last threatening look towards goal for the Yellowjackets in the match, as a well-played overall game was lacking only a finish in the final third. Palmer led the way offensively as she placed all three of her shot attempts on target, while Gertsch finished with two strikes on frame.
Vendela Andersson and Hailee Gertsch each played the full 90 minutes on the back line, and Keenan made four saves to help keep her team in the match. “Both Gertsches had solid games, and Liberty was a huge spark off the bench,” Cavallo said. “We are still growing as a group and have only trained for three weeks together. I believe in this team and I know our best is yet to come.”
Fastenau led the Wolves with three shot attempts, while DeAnna LeMire placed both of her strikes on frame. Townsend made 10 saves en route to earning her first shutout of the season.
MSUB returns to the pitch on Saturday, with a 1 p.m. kickoff against University of Nebraska Kearney.