There were a number of firsts accomplished by Belgrade’s girls Tuesday at Amend Park.
Senior Dalani Brayton scored her first goal of the season. Freshman Karli Aitchison netted her first career goal. And, the Panthers picked up their first win of the season.
Both goals came in the first half and then Belgrade hung on for a 2-1 Eastern AA victory against Billings Senior. It snapped a 3-match losing streak and gave the team a much-needed boost of confidence.
“We talked about the language that we were using the last three games, not towards each other, but just toward ourselves. So really just emphasized positive communication and belief in each other in what we could do,” second-year Belgrade coach Carl Bridwell said. “You could just tell by the expression on their faces by the end of the game, we were all pretty ecstatic.”
The Panthers (1-4-2) lost four starters in the first six matches to injuries, including one for the season, and were outscored 11-3 over the past three contests. But Bridwell noted several backups stepped in and provided key contributions in the victory.
Freshman Sydnie Watson saw signification action at outside back, while junior Anne Cheney and sophomore Abbie Morin were solid defensively, and backup keeper Maya Amundson played in the midfield.
That allowed the Panthers to produce several scoring opportunities, including Brayton’s goal in the 18th minute on a counter attack following a corner kick by Senior.
“Peyton Robertson found Dalani over the top and Dalani had just missed a chance earlier with a one on one versus the goalkeeper,” said Bridwell. “She shrugged that off and second chance dribbled right around her and placed it in the net.”
Belgrade stretched the lead two goals heading into intermission when Aitchison scored in the 36th minute. Bridwell noted the team maintained possession with simple passes, and then Cheney set up the goal by finding Brayton.
“Dalani did the rest where she instead of running on the goal (she) found Karli streaking at the back post and Karli just got something on it and put it in,” Bridwell explained. “It was just exciting to watch our team play the way that we knew they could play.”
It was the first time the Panthers have held a two-goal advantage this season, and the unfamiliar position resulted to some “frantic” play in the second half. That, Bridwell noted, led to a PK in the 59th minute by Senior’s Payton Kirwin.
Still, he was thrilled with the overall performance.
“It just felt good to see the girls play with confidence, and a little swagger, and they just need that belief,” Bridwell said.
Belgrade returns to action Friday hosting Great Falls to begin the second half of the season.
League-leading Broncs top Belgrade boys 9-1
Led by three goals and an assist from Simon Rolfson, Billings Senior built a 6-0 halftime lead en route to beating Belgrade 9-1 in an Eastern AA match Tuesday at Amend Field.
Dylan Jens and Hadyn Koch added two goals each for the Broncs, who improved to 4-0-1. The other two goals were scored by Trey Draayer and Teylor Ronish.
Despite a lopsided loss, first-year Belgrade coach Sydney McCauley was pleased with her team’s performance.
“I’m honestly super proud for the way that they played. They played super composed and they made great passes,” she said. “Our level of play was totally different today than every other game.”
Rather than trying to dribble through people or play long balls, Belgrade’s players connected passes much to McCauley’s delight.
The highlight was when Sam Waller scored his team-leading fifth goal in the second half. It was the first goal allowed this season by Senior.
Belgrade (2-5-0) returns to action Friday hosting Great Falls to begin the second half of the season.
“I just want us to keep improving on our soccer play. Our teamwork’s coming together and our passes are actually connecting,” said McCauley. “Today was super inspiring to move on to the next games.”
Belgrade 2, Billings Senior 1
Belgrade 2 0 - 2
Senior 0 1 - 1
Bel - Dalani Brayton (Peyton Robertson), 18th
Bel - Karli Aitchison (Brayton), 36th
BS - Payton Kirwin, PK, 59th
Shots: Bel 17, BS 14. CK: Bel 3, BS 2. Fouls: Bel 11, BS 8. Saves: Bel 2 (Mackenzie Turner), BS 5.
Billings Senior 9, Belgrade 1
Belgrade 0 1 - 1
Senior 6 3 - 9
Senior scoring: Simon Rolfson 3 goals, 1 assist; Dylan Jens 2 goals, 1 assist; Hadyn Koch 2 goals; Trey Draayer 1 goal, 2 assists; Teylor Ronish 1 assist
Belgrade scoring: Sam Waller