BILLINGS – It’s hard to say which was more exhausted after Saturday’s State A girls soccer championship in Billings: players or fans.
Billings Central and Laurel battled defensively for more than 100 scoreless minutes on Wendy’s Field at Rocky Mountain College before this year’s title was decided on penalty kicks in a shootout. The Rams won 3-0 on PKs earning their third championship in the past four years and ninth in the past 11. Laurel had won two of the past four, including last year’s.
Morgan Ferestad, Zoie Althoff and Annika Varga each drilled their PKs after Laurel’s opening attempts were shot wide or saved by Central senior goalkeeper Maggie Lyle. That accounted for the 3-0 difference in the best-of-five sequence.
Keepers Lyle and Mya Hansen, Laurel’s freshman, delivered one heart-thumping save after another between regulation and overtime. Lyle also didn’t allow a goal in the shootout, seemingly making up for lost time.
“I was injured last year,” Lyle said afterward, “so this was my first state championship that I’ve gotten to play in my four years. I don’t think it could’ve been any better. This is the best game. I wish it didn’t go into PKs, but it was a fun game to play in and watch, I’m sure.”
Players on both teams were noticeably spent afterward.
“They’re unbelievably fast up top and they never stop, they never stop,” Central’s Tess Hansen said of Laurel. “There was not one time in that game where we had a break. They just pressured a lot. I just think that shows a lot as a whole team, that we were able to stop each attack. It’s the type of tie that once you win, you just let it all out. That’s why a bunch of us are crying, because it was just so much effort.”
Saturday’s match also marked the last at Central for coach Didier Ndedi, who announced earlier this season that he’ll move out of state after coaching Central’s girls for the past four seasons and the boys for six.
The Rams and Locomotives have now combined to win Montana’s last 11 Class A championships.