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Craig’s hat trick rallies Montana from three-goal deficit

Published: September 22, 2011
University of Montana junior Erin Craig scored three times and freshman Allie Simon scored her first collegiate goal in the 87th minute to forge a 4-4 double-overtime draw with Southern Utah Thursday afternoon at Cedar City, Utah. The Grizzlies (3-5-1) fell behind 4-1 in the match’s first 38 minutes but outscored the Thunderbirds 3-0 in the second half to earn a tie that snapped Montana’s five-match losing streak. The three-goal rally is the largest deficit overcome to earn at least a draw in program history. Craig scored on a penalty kick in the 13th minute, then added second-half goals in the 63rd and 76th minutes off assists from sophomores India Watne and Maddey Frey. Simon completed the comeback, putting back a rebound on a shot from Craig, who earned an assist on the play. “I’ll always believe we have a chance,” UM coach Mark Plakorus said. “We (pulled within 4-2) with 27 minutes left, and that was when the girls said, ‘Let’s get after this.’ “I’m very proud of the girls and the fight they showed. It was great to see.” A draw seemed unlikely as the first half unfolded. Southern Utah’s Stacey Brinkman scored less than five minutes into the match when her shot from the top of the box beat Montana sophomore keeper Kendra McMillen at 4:48. Shelby Ostler made it 2-0 at 11:29 when she scored off an assist from Brinkman. Craig made it 2-1 less than a minute later when she connected on a penalty kick, but Elyse Osborne and Megan Mower put the Thunderbirds (2-5-2) up 4-1 when they scored at 37:06 and 37:52. That would be the score at the half. “We came out slow, and before we knew it we were on our heels,” Plakorus said. “Southern Utah was ready to play, and we let them run free. “It was a lot of what we weren’t doing, combined with Southern Utah playing well at home. It was a recipe for disaster.” The Thunderbirds outshot the Grizzlies 11 to 4 in the first half and created four corner kicks. “We didn’t play with the effort we expect from ourselves (in the first half). In the second half we wanted to come out and play our game, and that means playing with intensity and effort,” Plakorus said. “It was a total team effort. We committed ourselves to raising our level of play in the second half and just tried to get back one goal at a time.” It was the familiar combination of Watne-to-Craig that started the comeback, plus a change in Southern Utah’s keeper from Breana Fitzgerald to Charly Booth in the 62nd minute with the Thunderbirds up 4-1. Just over a minute after the change at keeper, Watne took a shot that was stopped by Booth, and Craig was there to score on the rebound. In the 76th minute Craig was at the receiving end of Frey’s cross, and her header gave Craig her first career hat trick and the 16th hat trick in Griz history. Craig was looking for her fourth goal with just over four minutes remaining. She took a shot that was blocked, and Simon scored the equalizer on the rebound at 86:01. Montana outshot Southern Utah in the two, 10-minute overtime periods and came close to pulling off an epic comeback victory, but freshman Tyler Adair’s shot in the 95th minute sailed just high of the goal. “We used a lot of energy to come back from three goals down,” Plakorus said, “but we still created some great opportunities for ourselves in overtime.” McMillen kept Southern Utah scoreless over the final 72 minutes of regulation and overtime to improve to 1-2-1 on the season. Notes: Craig’s seven points – on three goals and an assist – tie three others for the second-most single-match points in program history. Courtney Mathieson scored nine points – on four goals and an assist – in Montana’s 8-0 victory over Gonzaga in 1995. … Craig’s three goals give her nine for the season, more than Montana scored as a team in all of 2010, and move her into 10th place on Montana’s single-season records list. The season record is 17, held by Karen Hardy (1997) and Mathieson (1995). … Watne’s assist gives her seven for the season and moves her into eighth place on the single-season records list. The program record is 12, held by Jodi Campbell (2000) and Mathieson (1996) … Montana’s largest comeback for a victory was overcoming a 2-0 deficit in a 3-2 win against Colorado College in 1996. The Grizzlies came back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a 2-2 draw at Sacramento State in 2009.
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