BILLINGS -- The Billings West Golden Bears girls soccer team shut out defending Class AA state champion Billings Skyview, 1-0, on Saturday night at Daylis Stadium to win the program's first title since 2010.
"It's kind of surreal. It's fantastic for the girls. They played their hearts out. ... I'm just excited for the girls," West head coach Rob Zimmerman said.
The two sides played to a scoreless draw after the opening half, but West scored in the opening minute of the second half on a Chloe Davies goal that was set up by Jillian Hust. Following that goal, West shifted to a more defensive-minded scheme to keep Skyview out of the net.
"(The goal) was huge. I think it helped us to relax and settle in a little bit. We created a couple more opportunities," Zimmerman said. "You have to weather some storms. I knew Skyview was going to come at us hard, they were going to fight, and they're a great team. Fortunately we were able to weather the storm for 10 or 12 minutes. ... It wasn't necessarily pretty, but it was effective."
That scheme paid off, largely due to the play of West keeper Kendell Ellis. Ellis had a tremendous diving save in the first half to prevent a Skyview goal, but the pressure mounted as the game wound down. Skyview had two great looks in the 65th minute, but the first shot caromed off the crossbar and the rebound attempt sailed over the net.
With eight minutes to play, Skyview had a free kick on West's half of the field. A well-struck ball sailed into the box before a Falcons player headed it toward the far post. Ellis, however, stretched out to make another phenomenal save. Ellis also saved the ensuing corner kick from Skyview to preserve the clean sheet.
"(Ellis) had the save of the game late in the game when she got down low and palmed the ball away. That was huge," Zimmerman said of Ellis' performance in the net.
"Just stay in it. Stay for your team. They're working their butts off, so just work your butt off for them," Ellis said. "I know that my teammates are there to help me to clear it. We're all just working together to clear it out of the box."
West will be among the favorites next season, as the Bears lose just one senior off their roster.