When it appeared West Region-leading Bismarck was going to have to settle for a vanilla outcome in its penultimate soccer match of the regular season, the usual suspect stepped in.
Junior midfielder Elle Hill scored on a direct free kick with 3.7 seconds remaining to give the Demons their ninth straight victory, a 2-1 win over archrival Century at the Sanford Sports Complex.
With the victory, Bismarck clinched the regular season regional championship with 30 points. It’s their first regular season regional crown since 2000.
Hill was awarded the free kick, from about 20 yards out to the right of center, when officials determined she had been fouled as she and a Century defender raced down the field in the closing seconds of the match.
“It was one-on-one with me and a Century girl who was riding my hip all the way,” Hill said. “And I fell and got the call. It’s really scary when you have someone riding you like that.”
Hill had a similar opportunity when the game was scoreless early in the first half. She lined her shot into a wall of defenders Century had set up between her and the net. She said she was determined to clear the wall with the match on the line.
“I just hoped I didn’t send it over the net,” she said. “I had to make it over the wall.”
The shot sailed into the net, inches below the crossbar.
Shooting with the match up for grabs was familiar territory for Hill, who plays varsity basketball for BHS.
“It reminded me of shooting a free throw when we’re down and you know you’ve got to make them both,” she said. “… It’s very important to stay calm.”
The match-winning goal was her 18th of the season.
Hill said a tie would have been acceptable, but certainly not preferable.
“If we’d only gotten one point (from a tie) I think we’d be a little down on ourselves. It would have felt kind of like a loss, I think,” she said.
Hill, who leads the region in goals, also scored the game’s first tally, finding the net on a breakaway set up by a long pass from Rayni Vorachek with 31:41 elapsed.
That’s the way things stood the rest of the first half.
Katie Weigum scored the equalizer for Century early in the second half. Weigum scored from in close as the ball bounced around after BHS keeper Olivia Dickerson made a stop on a shot by Abby Kelsch. Dickerson was unable to secure the ball and Weigum slipped the ball into the goal with 31:02 to play.
Bismarck coach Andy Foss said he liked what the victory showed about his team.
“I told our team that good teams find a way to win, and we found a way to win tonight,” he said.
Foss said Century is a better team than the one the Demons defeated 3-0 in April.
“Century made adjustments. They’re a good team and they came out flying,” he noted. “They played a good game and made us work for it.”
“I think we’re making strides, too,” he added. “We’re figuring out our strengths and how to attack teams.”
Bismarck has one regular season game remaining. The Demons play St. Mary’s on Friday.