The Montana and Northern Arizona soccer teams played to a 0-0 draw Sunday afternoon at South Campus Stadium in Missoula.
The tie gave the Grizzlies (4-7-2, 1-2-1 BSC), who defeated Southern Utah 2-1 on Friday, a much-needed four-point weekend after opening league with road losses at North Dakota and Northern Colorado last weekend.
The match finished with both teams taking 13 shots, but that was hardly indicative of the flow of play. The Lumberjacks took 11 of the match’s first 12 shots, then got just a single shot off over the final 50 minutes. The Grizzlies took 12 of their shots in the second half and overtimes. Still, no one scored.
“I thought it was a fair result for how the game went,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus, whose team got outshot 9-1 in the first half. “I thought we came out very slow. We looked tired and weren’t mentally focused and sharp like we should have been.”
Sunday was Northern Arizona’s only match of the weekend. The Lumberjacks (6-5-1, 1-1-1 BSC) tried to use that to their advantage, and for the first half they were successful. There was no real difference in time of possession through 45 minutes, but NAU used its possessions to create shots.
“They had a good game plan. They were pressuring us, which I expected them to do. They figured we were tired (after playing on Friday) and they were fresh, so they tried to press us a bit,” said Plakorus, who watched as his team’s first-half passes in the offensive end mostly find Northern Arizona feet.
“(When we had possession) I thought our forwards were very reactive and very disjointed. We weren’t playing together as a group up front.”
Junior goalkeeper Kailey Norman, who earned her third shutout of the season and 13th of her career, made four saves in the first half to keep the game scoreless.
Though it didn’t result in one of her five saves for the match, she helped shut down the best opportunity by either team in the 72nd minute.
Haley Wingender, NAU’s leading scorer with seven goals and one of the last players in the Big Sky Conference a coach would want going in mostly alone on his goalkeeper, got loose up the right side and for a moment was 1v1 on Norman.
But the keeper played it perfectly, with a helpful assist from sophomore outside back Chanelle Pederson, who closed hard on Wingender from the side and forced the high-scoring Lumberjack to push the shot wide left.
“Even with that look, I thought Kailey did a great job cutting down the angle. And Chanelle came over to pressure her and force her to maybe hit the ball a little earlier than she wanted to,” said Plakorus.
It was the last shot Northern Arizona took in the match.
Montana outshot Northern Arizona 12-4 over the second half and two 10-minute overtime periods, but none of those shots was on goal.
“I was proud of my team. As the game went on, I thought we fought our way back into it and started generating some momentum,” said Plakorus.
“We started getting looks, we just weren’t getting them on frame. That’s something we need to be better at. We need to put all these shots on goal and start being a little more threatening.”
Ten players took shots for Montana, with freshman forward Ellie Otteson taking four, giving her nine for the weekend, but only sophomore Ashlee Pedersen’s shot early in the first half required Meghan Dickmann to make a save to collect her first shutout of the season for the Lumberjacks.
“It wasn’t a great game for us, but I thought we fought,” said Plakorus. “This team is starting to see that when they fight, the more they give themselves an opportunity.”
Montana will face the two teams atop the Big Sky Conference standings next weekend when the Grizzlies host Eastern Washington (10-1-1, 4-0-0 BSC) on Friday at 3 p.m. and then hit the road to play at Idaho (8-4-1, 4-0-0 BSC) on Sunday at 2 p.m. (MT).