(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Sydney Torres scored her first-career golden goal on Saturday afternoon at Yellowjacket Field, lifting the Montana State University Billings women’s soccer team to a 2-1 Great Northwest Athletic Conference victory over visiting Simon Fraser University.
Three minutes into the opening overtime period, Torres’ one-time effort from the top of the box on a drop pass from Jordan Roe carried over the head of SFU goalkeeper Kelsey Fisher, glanced off the crossbar, and landed over the goal line to end the match. “I feel like we have the most energy when we go into overtime,” said Torres, with Saturday marking the team’s third overtime match of the year. “I knew I had to be ready in case that extra ball came out to me, and as soon as I saw the ball I just took the opportunity. As soon as I scored it felt like the most exciting thing in the world, especially having Jordan pick me up and having the whole team run onto the field and celebrate.”
Torres’ finish – MSUB’s first golden goal since Hayley Warren scored in the 98th minute of a 2-1 win over Simon Fraser on Oct. 27, 2016 in Billings – prompted a wild celebration on the field as Roe hoisted Torres and the Yellowjacket bench rushed over to celebrate. “It is so awesome winning in a golden goal situation like that, because we knew when it went in that the game was over,” said senior defender Ally Findlay, who scored her first goal in an MSUB uniform on Saturday as well. “We were saying on the side how we wanted to finish it in the first five minutes, and it was pretty quick.”
“In the first half we got that goal on the corner, so I knew we could definitely do it again,” said Torres on a day where MSUB looked dangerous on all seven of its corner kicks. “I have never experienced something like that before, and especially to celebrate it at home with a big fan base – I wouldn’t change anything about that.”
Findlay’s finish also came on a corner kick, as she put the Yellowjackets ahead just six minutes into the match. After Leila Clark’s service was punched out by Fisher, Findlay got her right foot on the ball and tapped it into the back of the net. “I was a little surprised when I saw it go in, and I was just in the right spot at the right time,” Findlay said. “It was a beautiful ball in, it bounced around a little bit, and I just put my foot through it and hoped for the best.”
Findlay’s 93-minute effort at center back highlighted a strong defensive day by the Yellowjackets overall, as MSUB limited SFU to just six shots including one in the opening 45 minutes of play. “It was a great day for Ally,” MSUB head coach Stephen Cavallo said. “She has come through a lot in this season alone, and I’m really proud of her. She stepped up big, gave us 93 minutes, and her leadership and character within the team is really helping us right now.”
Playing alongside Findlay at center back for the full 93 minutes was Hailee Gertsch, while Sydney Wate had one of her top performances in an MSUB uniform with 87 strong minutes at outside back. Cassie Southwick played 89 minutes on the outside, senior Lexie Bloyder ran the flanks for 70 minutes, and Kiley Sandow, who checked in at the outset of overtime, delivered the corner kick on Torres’ game-winning strike. “We all clicked really well,” Findlay commented on the defensive unit. “We communicated well, and me and Gertsch especially passing on marks. We talked the whole game and worked as a team very well in the back.”
The ‘Jackets nudged their overall record back above .500 at 5-4-2, and improved to 2-3-1 in conference play with the win. SFU meanwhile slipped to 2-6-1 overall and is 3-3 in league play. At the end of Saturday’s action, SFU sat in third place in the conference standings while the ‘Jackets were tied for fifth. “It is awesome, especially after a frustrating loss on Thursday,” Findlay said referring to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of No. 6 Western Washington on Thursday afternoon. “We did not play as well as we could have, and to really turn it around and come out with more energy and fight today was great.”
Kiara Buono scored SFU’s goal in the 54th minute, firing a long shot from well outside the goal box that carried over the head of MSUB goalkeeper Tuva Sallvin and evened the score at 1-1 shortly after the halftime break. It was the lone blemish against the Yellowjacket goalkeeper on Saturday, who improved her record to 3-0 making four saves between the posts.
Liberty Palmer continued her torrid pace of play, leading all players with six shots including three on target in Saturday’s match. The true freshman’s 15 shots on goal are tied for most in the GNAC and her shots-on-goal percentage of .536 is highest among all GNAC players to average at least two shots per game.
Fisher made six saves for Simon Fraser, which picked up the pace in the second half and placed all five of its attempts on frame. Emily Smith, Jenieva Musico, and Katie Richardson all played the full 93 minutes on the back line, as did Buono and Danae Robillard in the midfield.
“It feels great to get three points, and we knew coming into this game that we desperately needed three points,” said MSUB head coach Stephen Cavallo. “I think that we started the game great, scoring in the first five minutes, and we had sustained pressure the whole rest of the half. We know that Saturday matches in this conference are always going to be a dogfight, and it is a battle after playing 90 minutes on Thursday. I’m really proud of the team for pushing, keeping going, and getting a winner in overtime.”
The ‘Jackets are home again next week, hosting Northwest Nazarene University next Thursday at 2 p.m. and No. 25 Seattle Pacific University next Saturday at 1 p.m.
Meantime, visiting Northwest Nazarene University scored twice in the final six minutes to steal a 2-1 GNAC win over MSUB's men Saturday.
The Yellowjackets carried a 1-0 lead into the closing minutes of play, but watched as the Nighthawks struck twice in the span of five minutes. “This was a very disappointing performance,” said MSUB head coach Thomas Chameraud. “I think we had control of the match and we had the best chances, yet we found a way to give them an opportunity to come back and lost it.”
GNAC leading scorer Halil Yilmaz netted a top-shelf, free-kick goal in the 62nd minute, giving the Yellowjackets a well-deserved 1-0 lead after the hosts out-played the Nighthawks over the first hour of action. Jimmy Koufidakis equalized in the 85th minute after a long set piece into the box was mishandled, and Nils Knosala scored the winner in the 89th minute on a long shot that carried through a crowded box and trickled into the lower-right corner of the goal.
Yilmaz led all players with four shots and two on frame, on a day where the ‘Jackets out-shot the Nighthawks 14-6 and placed six attempts on target. NNU made the most of its four shots on goal however, scoring twice to improve to 6-4 overall and 3-1 in league play. MSUB slipped to 3-5-1 overall and is now 1-2 in conference matches. “We have to find a way to close these type of games, because in the GNAC when you don’t put away big chances you get punished,” said Chameraud. “We learned it the hard way today, and now we will have to regroup and get big results away.”
The Yellowjackets frequently tested NNU goalkeeper Sawyer Price in the opening half, with four corner kicks and six shots in the opening 45 minutes. Although the Yellowjackets settled for a 0-0 score line at halftime, they managed to pull ahead after winning a free kick 16 minutes into the second half.
The left-footed Yilmaz bent a powerful, 35-yard strike into the upper-right corner of the net past an out-stretched Price, who got a fingertip on the ball before it hit the back of the net. It was Yilmaz’s ninth goal of the season, after he scored a pair in MSUB’s 3-0 blanking of Saint Martin’s University on Thursday.
After a ball was played into the goal box on a free kick in the 85th minute, it fell to the foot of Koufidakis among a crowd of players and he knocked it into an unguarded net to tie the score at 1-1.
Perhaps MSUB’s best chance for a second finish came on a corner kick in the 69th minute, when Bryan Maxwell got his head on a cross but pushed it just wide of the far post. Price saved a shot by Yilmaz in the 85th minute directly after Koufidakis’s equalizer, and an ensuing attempt from Tybalt Thornberry glanced off the right goal post as the ‘Jackets nearly pulled ahead.
NNU put the game away moments later, when Knosala created space with the ball outside the box on the left side of the field. Sebastian Cotrau stunted towards the ball as it was played into the box, which was enough to misdirect MSUB goalkeeper Georgios Theodoulidis as the ball carried into the back of the net.
Senior captain Luca Battistotti played a full 90 minutes on the back line, and had numerous crucial tackles throughout the match to keep momentum on the side of the Yellowjackets. Bryan Maxwell and Pascal Pisarek each also contributed solid 90-minute performances on the back line for MSUB.
The Yellowjackets hit the road next week, playing at Simon Fraser University on Oct. 14 and at Western Washington University on Oct. 16.