Griz complete unbeaten march through Big Sky
Published: October 31, 2014
The Montana soccer team defeated Eastern Washington 1-0 Friday afternoon at Cheney, Wash., to finish its 10-match Big Sky Conference schedule without a loss.
Redshirt freshman Jamie Simon scored her second goal of the season in the 67th minute off an assist from senior Tyler Adair, and sophomore goalkeeper Kailey Norman made seven saves for her ninth shutout of the season as the Grizzlies put the finishing touches on an 8-0-2 league finish.
It is only the fourth time since 2001 that a Big Sky team has gone through its league schedule without a loss.
“It’s a pretty special thing. It hasn’t been done very often, and this is the first time we’ve had 11 teams in the conference,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus.
“I’m incredibly proud and so happy for these young ladies. They’ve worked so hard and have committed to becoming a good team and helping each other be the best they can be. They really pull out the best in one another.”
Montana, which improved to 12-5-2 overall and hasn’t lost since Sept. 21, wins the league’s regular-season championship by six points over second-place Portland State. The Grizzlies will host next week’s six-team Big Sky tournament at South Campus Stadium.
Montana and Portland State will be the No. 1 and 2 seeds at the tournament and will have byes to Friday’s semifinals.
Idaho State and Eastern Washington (8-8-0, 5-5-0 BSC) have clinched spots in the tournament. The other two quarterfinalists won’t be known until Friday night’s matches have been completed.
Montana got outshot for just the second time in 10 Big Sky matches Friday. The Eagles took nine first-half shots, but Norman made three saves to keep the teams deadlocked at the half.
“I thought Eastern Washington played a very good game. They attacked us early and came after us. They got in a couple of times for some dangerous looks when we lost our focus a little bit,” Plakorus said.
“We regrouped at halftime and got some things sorted out.”
Simon scored the match’s lone goal at 66:38. Adair collected a loose ball and played it to the top of the box. Simon one-timed it off the inside of the post for her second goal of the year and first since scoring the game-winner in Montana’s season-opening 1-0 win at Air Force.
Norman and Montana’s defense made the goal stand up the final 20-plus minutes.
“Jamie scored a fantastic goal. Just a great shot and great goal,” said Plakorus. “Once we got up on them, I thought we did a good job keeping them in front of us and locking them down the rest of the way.”
Montana outscored its Big Sky opponents this season 19-4, and Norman and the Grizzlies had seven shutouts in 10 matches.
“Kailey was really solid today. I’m happy with how she played, but she’s been good all year,” added Plakorus. “When we’ve needed her to step up, she’s done that for us. Today was no different.”
Montana will play at 2 p.m. next Friday in the second of two semifinals that day. The Grizzlies will face the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal match between the No. 4 and 5 seeds.