BILLINGS — The girls soccer teams from Laurel and Billings Central continued their Class A state semifinals streaks by winning home quarterfinal matches on Saturday.
Two-time defending state champion Laurel took a three-goal lead and then closed out a 3-1 victory over Columbia Falls at the Laurel Sports Complex, sending the Locomotives to the semifinals for the eighth straight season.
The last time Billings Central dropped out in the quarterfinals was 2007, when Hamilton eliminated the Rams. The 2021 version of the Broncs didn’t have that power Saturday as the Rams rolled to a 6-0 win at Amend Park.
Both Laurel and Billings Central will host semifinals next Saturday. The Locomotives (13-1-0) take on Bigfork (7-5-1), while the Rams (12-1-0) play Whitefish (13-0-0).
Billings Central 6, Hamilton 0
The Rams’ Abby Derbyshire had free run of the right wing, and the junior forward caused immediate and constant problems for the Broncs.
Lauren Dull scored the first of her two goals in the 7th minute when Derbyshire, after dribbling down the sideline, sent the ball into the box. Dull chipped it in, and the Rams were on their way.
Derbyshire put her full skills on display early in the second half when she dispossessed a Hamilton defender of the ball, then deftly evaded the charging Hamilton keeper before sending the ball into the open net.
Derbyshire wound up with two goals — giving her 29 on the season — and finished with three assists.
“You know teams are going to be expecting her to get the ball,” Central coach Nolan Trafton said. “I think she’s at her best when she can distribute.”
Brynn Lockie scored twice and Evelyn Nelson had an assist for the Rams, who led 4-0 at halftime.
Hamilton finished the season 6-4-3. Coach Angie Fett brought a young team to Billings — Sidney DeLong is the lone senior but she is injured and did not play — and was happy nonetheless with her team’s performance.
“We had quite a few freshmen starting today so I think it’s exciting because they’re getting this experience now,” Fett said. “Three years from now, when they’re seniors, they’re going to have so much experience and hopefully we’ll be able to compete at this level.”
Whitefish, next week’s opponent for the Rams, knocked Billings Central out of last year’s semifinals. Last season marked the first time since 2015 that Central had not played in the championship match.
“At this point in the season, I expect championship-level soccer regardless of our opponent,” Trafton wrote in a text to The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com Saturday evening, once he knew who the Rams opponent would be. “I know Whitefish will be expecting the same.”
Laurel 3, Columbia Falls 1
Cassie Sampson, Chloe Baumann and Kaitlyn Dantic all tallied goals to put the Locomotives in front 3-0 by the 55th minute.
Maddie Robison struck from 35 yards out on a direct kick in the 68th minute to get Columbia Falls within 3-1 and Laurel had to survive some other nervous moments, like keeper Anna Cole making a strong save on another Robison free kick and Cheyenne Johnston-Heinz bouncing a shot off the far post in the 77th minute.
But survive the Locomotives did in a match that was pretty physical for much of the duration.
“Ultimately we came out on top here and got through a tough, tight battle,” Laurel coach Tom Maack said. “Getting up 3-0, that helped us a lot, but we knew they would come back and respond like that. We had to overcome and keep battling when the game got down to the wire here.”
While the Locos were jubilantly celebrating, Columbia Falls coach Thomas Clark was saying the hard goodbyes to a group of eight seniors. The Wildkats wrapped their season at 9-4-0 and Robison finished with 28 goals.
“When you’ve got Maddie Robison, Cheyanne-Johnston-Heinz, Alexis Green and some of these seniors on your team, you’ve always got a chance,” Clark said, after posing for some final photos with players.
Mya Maack and Madison Peaton had assists for Laurel, which can possibly find some sort of good omen in that 2013 quarterfinal loss.
The Locomotives have reached the state title match each year since that setback, seven straight. To make it eight, they’ll have to get past Bigfork next Saturday.
“I think we have to focus about who we are, and then maybe midway through the week we’ll see what our opponent is doing,” Tom Maack said. “But at this point in time we want to see who we are, where we played well and when we played well and keep educating our girls and coaching the game about the way it should be played.”
NOTES: Next Saturday’s Whitefish-Billings Central game is set for a 10 a.m. start at Amend Park. Game time for the Bigfork-Laurel match was not set at press time. … Whitefish downed Missoula Loyola 10-0 and Bigfork edged Stevensville 3-2 in overtime in Saturday’s other quarterfinals. … Billings Central and Laurel have combined to win the past 13 state championships.