As Madison Adams has battled back from injury, a struggle that’s been ongoing for three years, Montana soccer coach Mark Plakorus kept repeating the same thing. Just wait. When she gets back, Madi will be a difference-maker. Just wait.
Adams, who has three goals in Montana’s last four games and sparked the Grizzlies to a 3-0 victory over Weber State on Friday afternoon at South Campus Stadium, is rewarding her coach’s patience and proving his prescience.
The redshirt sophomore opened the scoring against the Wildcats (5-6-1, 3-2-0 BSC) and had an assist on Montana’s second goal to add the best chapter yet to her comeback story.
“I’m just really happy for her,” Plakorus said. “With the things she’s gone through the last three years and is still going through, it’s a battle for her every day. It’s just great to see the success she’s having.”
Friday’s match wasn’t must-win for Montana (6-5-3, 2-2-1 BSC), which won for just the second time in its last eight matches. In fact, Adams and her teammates didn’t even discuss this week the team’s 1-2-1 start to league or its perilous place in the standings.
They just wanted to get back to playing like they knew they could.
“We had a lot of discussions this week as a team about what we needed to do to get back to the level that we need to play at,” said Adams. “So this was perfect timing for us. We needed this win.”
Weber State entered Friday’s match on a three-game winning streak and one point out of first place in the Big Sky Conference standings, but it was Montana that set the tone early. The Grizzlies were sharp from the start and scored their earliest goal of the season in the 11th minute.
Outside back Chanelle Pederson, who is becoming a dangerous playmaker when she gets forward with the ball on the wing, sent a cross into the box that Hallie Widner appeared ready to head in.
She just missed -- give Widner an uncredited assist for keeping the goalkeeper engaged -- and the ball found Adams, who headed in what would turn out to be the game-winner.
“She’s such a good player around the ball,” Plakorus said. “She’s courageous enough to get on the end of crosses and finish those.”
Montana put five first-half shots on goal and had a 1-0 lead at the break.
“Right from the start we played with good focus and good intensity,” said Plakorus. “Our ball-movement was good, and we didn’t get stuck in doing one thing all the time. We were very multi-dimensional in how we were attacking.”
Weber State had its only sustained possession early in the second half, when the Wildcats created their only two corner kicks of the match and had their only shot on goal, which Kailey Norman picked up on the way to her 22nd career shutout.
Eight of Weber State’s nine shots weren’t on goal. Most were taken from outside the 18-yard box, which put little pressure on Norman.
“Our ability to keep the ball forced them to drop a lot of numbers back to defend their own goal. When you do that, it’s very difficult to get numbers forward and be dangerous,” said Plakorus.
“There were a couple of times they caught us on counterattacks, but for the most part our ability to push them back into their end made it very difficult for them to get forward on us.”
With the way the Grizzlies were playing, their second goal, in the 67th minute, put the match out of reach.
Ashlee Pedersen, who had checked in less than a minute earlier for the first time in the match, sent Adams into open space up the right side. Adams crossed it in, and Kaitlin Crowell was there for her own header. Textbook.
“When you move the ball like we did and score a beautiful goal like that, it just energizes everybody,” said Plakorus.
“We’ve been talking about playing a full game and not just a half. Today I thought we did a really good job of coming out in the second half and putting our stamp back on the game.”
Though it doesn’t show up in the box score, Pedersen played a major role in Montana’s final goal, in the 79th minute.
Operating in space on the right side, Pedersen cut back to her left just inside the box and was taken down by Weber State’s Nicolle Allen, leading to a penalty kick. Janessa Fowler calmly converted inside the left post for her first career goal.
It put the final touch on the type of performance Plakorus has been waiting for. It was a version of his team -- finally -- he hadn’t seen in more than a month.
“I thought it was our best performance, start to finish, we’ve had this year,” he said. “It’s been a long time since they played relaxed in a game, and it looked like they were having fun again, which is good to see. Hopefully this gets us going in the right direction.”
Friday’s match was Montana’s only game of the week. The Grizzlies will play at Northern Arizona next Friday and at Southern Utah next Sunday.