BILLINGS — Ava DeBourg sent a short cross to the center of the box, and when a Hamilton defender hesitated ever so briefly, Morgan Ferestad was there to take advantage like she’s done so many times for the Billings Central girls soccer team.

One hundred and two times to be exact.

When Ferestad sent the ball off a short hop with her right leg past the Broncs’ keeper in the 50th minute Saturday, she became Montana’s career goal-scoring leader. It was Ferestad’s third goal of the game and 102nd of her career, sending her past Whitefish’s Elizabeth Pitman, who tallied 101 times from 1998-2001.

Aware of the significance of the goal, Ferestad did a fist pump and hopped into the air three times before her teammates could rush in with their congratulations. She was given the game ball to keep, and coach Nolan Trafton subbed her out, her day’s work done in what became a 9-0 win for the Class A defending champion Rams at Wendy’s Field at Rocky Mountain College.

Ferestad, a senior who has signed to play for Carroll College, began the season with 90 goals. She’s scored 12 times in the Rams’ first four games, helping the team to a 4-0-0 start. Ferestad insisted chasing a state record didn’t cause her any anxiety, though it did cross her mind.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it,” she said. “Especially this game. I just tried to relax, just play because it doesn’t really mean anything in the long run. It’s a reflection of a great team and great players who helped me get here.”

While it is very much an individual record, it is also very much a team effort, as Ferestad pointed out. Though Trafton said he’s been challenging his forwards — Ferestad, senior Zoie Althoff and sophomore Solei Elletson among them — to become more creative off the ball this season, Ferestad has been for the most part a traditional striker. Her job is to put the ball in the net.

And with so many great playmakers around Ferestad — Althoff, for example, also scored three times Saturday and is closing in on the school’s assist record — Ferestad’s job is made that much easier.

“That’s probably my favorite part, is we’re all in it together,” Ferestad said. “There’s no individual play, really. We’re all going 100 percent to set each other up, and that’s the best.”

Ferestad burst onto the scene by scoring 37 goals as a freshman. A shoulder injury slowed her somewhat her sophomore year, forcing her to miss a few games, but she still scored 23 times. (Althoff stepped to the front that season and put in 29 goals).

By the end of her sophomore season, well, you could do the math.

“There was a bit of chatter that she could chase the record, she could put a good run at that,“ remembered Trafton, who was an assistant coach with the Rams for five seasons before becoming boys and girls head coach this year. “Honestly, I didn’t think it would come this early in her senior year. I’m really happy for her.”

With just four games gone in the regular season, there’s plenty of time for Ferestad and the Rams to add to her totals. Central has outscored its opponents 41-1, so, yes, those chances will come.

Who knows what her final tally will be? Whatever it is, it’s a long way from what Ferestad thought was possible when she started this path.

“My goal coming in freshman year was to play one varsity minute and score one varsity goal,” she said with a laugh. “This wasn’t even in my head.”

A pretty simple dream. One that’s been repeated 102 times, and counting.

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