(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS - Center back Hailee Gertsch helped carry the Montana State University Billings women’s soccer team to a 3-0 clean sheet on Friday afternoon, and three different players found the back of the net in a decisive, season-opening victory over Rocky Mountain College at Herb Klindt Field.
Gertsch stood out on a day where the Yellowjackets were solid defensively all around, starting the match and playing 60 strong minutes on the back line. “It was awesome,” Gertsch said on her first collegiate game. “We played really well, connected really well, and in general we just shut them down.”
Jordan Roe scored her first collegiate goal in the 14th minute, Lindsey Meyer added her first of the year just after halftime in the 49th minute, and Ally Gockley capped the game off in the 79th minute with her first collegiate goal as well. “We were really excited just to be back on the field,” said head coach Stephen Cavallo. “To get the shutout is definitely something that we want to build a foundation on of defense first. Three different goal scorers today is really exciting and encouraging. A lot of different players got their first college experience, and it was awesome to see that.”
The ‘Jackets struck in the 14th minute, on a play that started developing down the left wing of the field on a clearance from goalkeeper Clare Keenan in the goal box. Roe beat her defender with a nice hesitation move, before switching the pitch through Lexie Bloyder to Josie Corbin on the far wing. The junior lofted a cross into the box and Roe was there to gobble up a loose ball and tuck it neatly into the right corner of the net from eight yards out.
One of the Battlin’ Bears’ best chances to score came five minutes before halftime, when Ariana Virella broke free inside the box and faced Keenan in a one-on-one near the left goal post. The Yellowjacket goalkeeper reacted to a point-blank, powerful shot, out-stretching her feet to deny what appeared to be a sure goal. It was the only save required of Keenan throughout her 61 minutes on the field, as she earned her first collegiate victory between the posts.
After settling for the 1-0 advantage at the halftime break, the Yellowjackets promptly doubled their tally after returning to the pitch. Emily Gaines worked into space with the ball on the right side of the field, before delivering a smooth pass through the back line and into the box for Meyer to run onto. The MSUB striker took a touch to beat RMC goalkeeper Maia Wetzel, and calmly finished her second career goal into the back of the net.
The brace helped MSUB maintain control of the match for the majority of the second half, as the Bears managed a pair of corner kicks but did not manifest a dangerous threat on goal until the waning minutes. In similar fashion to Meyer’s finish, the final goal of the match developed on the right wing this time with Ashley Cameron feeding the ball into the box. Gockley arrived just ahead of her defender, and neatly tucked a low shot inside the far post to close the door on any hope for an RMC comeback.
Although the Bears’ chances of equalizing were dashed by Gockley’s goal, it took perhaps Gertsch’s most brilliant moment of the match to keep the score line at 3-0. With just over 10 minutes to go and just one minute after Gockley’s finish, Hannah Borgel found herself with an open look at the net from inside the box on the right side. Her right-footed strike was on frame, but Gertsch read the play perfectly and cleared the ball off the goal line at the last second. “Hailee is extremely strong technically, and is physically very strong as well,” Cavallo said. “She does a great job reading the game, and we are going to see a lot of crucial moments from her like she had today. She is a great player.”
A total of 23 Yellowjackets saw minutes in the match, including 16 who made their MSUB debut. Roe and fellow freshman Izzy Menning tied for the team lead with three shots apiece, each placing one on target. Lainey Bosch played the final 29 minutes in goal and made three saves as she did her part in helping the team earn the shutout. “Everyone brings something different to where they play, and having new faces was great,” Gertsch said on the wide variety of players used on Friday. “I think we only go up from here. This is just our foundation, and we will keep working hard.”
MSUB (1-0) held a 14-7 advantage in shots over the Bears, and placed six on frame compared to Rocky’s five. Every MSUB player who got onto the pitch played more than 20 minutes in the opening match of the season. “We are really encouraged and excited by the depth of this team,” Cavallo said. “We feel like this year we are going to have players scoring by committee, and defending by committee, and we are excited about the different variations and lineups that we can put forward.”
THE BUZZ: Gertsch was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 12-7-1 all-time against Rocky and is 5-2-1 in matches played on the RMC campus…the assist was the second of Gaines’ career…the game was an exhibition affair for RMC, which has not played a counting contest yet this spring.
UP NEXT: MSUB is set for a pair of games in Minot, North Dakota next weekend in its first road trip of the spring. The ‘Jackets will play a neutral-site contest against the University of Mary on Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m., before taking on host Minot State University on Feb. 28 at 10 a.m.