HELENA — Carroll College women’s soccer coach Dave Thorvilson will always have a place in his heart for Montana State Billings soccer.
It was the same school that he obtained his bachelor’s degree and received his first coaching opportunity.
But on Friday afternoon when he led the Saints out to Nelson Field, he made sure to tell them that this was an opportunity to prove themselves.
“I owe a lot to MSUB and I’m very appreciative of the opportunities (the university) has given me, but today they are just another team,” Thorvilson said.
Carroll just returned from a West Coast trip that saw big wins against the University of Saint Katherine and San Diego Christian this past weekend, but with Cascade Collegiate Conference play starting in a few weeks, Thorvilson knew his team needed a test.
And an NCAA Division II school out of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference gave them just that.
“This was just an opportunity to play a different team,” Thorvilson said.
Saint Katherine and San Diego Christian combined last season for just three wins, so with limited in-state opponents, asking Billings to drive I-90 for three hours is almost necessary to see higher non-conference competition.
If you get a chance to knock the ball around and only have to travel three hours versus six or eight hours, it helps,” Thorvilson said.
The game was slated as an exhibition, but that didn’t stop the Saints from competing.
For some of the girls who grew up in Billings, the opportunity to play their hometown college was something special.
“I’ve grown up with some of the girls on (Billings),” junior defender Rachel Quade said. “I’ve played against some of them and I have played with some of them. It just adds a little more hype to the game.”
Quade graduated from Billings Skyview and thought about what it would be like to play for Billings but instead she wanted to get away from home.
Quade didn’t get the opportunity to score on the Yellowjackets, but she watched as her teammate senior forward Makayla Welch receive a pass from freshman Ally Cleverly to score in the 37th minute and claim a 1-0 win.
Welch leads the Saints with five goals this season, but the team is still looking for the right formula up front.
Last year’s top goal scorer Lizzie Sheldon is no longer with the team and Payton Netz graduated, but Thorvilson knows there are plenty of options at his disposal.
“Our front three, regardless what group was in, really put a lot of pressure on (Billings’) back line and caused some issues,” Thorvilson said. “You always want multiple scorers but, in big games, you want to know who that one person will be to make the difference for you. We have a lot of kids scoring goals, but I’m still waiting to see who wants to be the kid.”
While Welch has promise up front, others have also shown their skills. Senior Brenna Rohnkohl and sophomore Katie Martin each have a pair of goals this season.
The Saints do not have a game for another two weeks, until they travel to Billings for a rematch with the Yellowjackets. This time it will count.
Until then, Carroll can smile a little brighter knowing that it knocked off some higher competition.
“It feels pretty good,” Quade said. “Now we just need to maintain this level of play.”