For the second time in three days, two unanswered goals in the second half proved to be too much for the Grizzly soccer team to overcome. Cal State Fullerton scored goals in the 65th and 71st minutes Sunday to defeat Montana 2-0 at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif.
On Friday, Loyola Marymount scored in the 75th and 84th minutes to erase Montana’s 1-0 lead and hand the Grizzlies a 2-1 loss.
Montana (0-2-2) will return home looking for its first win of the season Thursday when the Grizzlies host Houston Baptist at South Campus Stadium.
On Sunday Montana faced a team that won the Big West Conference title a year ago and was picked to repeat in 2013. The Titans (2-1-1) played like a conference champion, if not a solid NCAA tournament team.
Cal State Fullerton put 25 shots on Montana, 10 of which were on goal, and took 10 corner kicks.
“They are very, very good. That’s probably the best team we’ve played since last year when we faced Texas Tech,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus.
“They are athletic, very well organized, and they move the ball very well and make you chase a little bit. And then they put a lot of pressure on you by throwing a lot of players forward.”
Fullerton took eight shots and generated five corner kicks in the opening 30 minutes before Montana was able to respond with its first sustained attack.
“We started out a little bit slow, and they were giving us trouble with the way they attack,” Plakorus said. “But we made an adjustment, and I thought we settled the game down and got it evened out midway through the first half.
“We were able to get possession in their end and make them defend us a little more.”
For the fourth time in four matches this season, Montana went to the locker room in a 0-0 tie.
Cal State Fullerton opened the second half with a persistent attack, taking seven shots and three corner kicks in the first 18 minutes, before breaking through with a goal at 64:57. They added an insurance goal at 70:09.
“I thought we got ourselves back in the game (late in the first half), but then in the second half they came out really hard and started throwing a lot of numbers at us, and we didn’t deal with the pressure very well.
“I’ve got to do a better job preparing the girls to face that type of pressure and teach them how to play out of it.”
Montana took a pair of shots, both by junior Tyler Adair, in the closing minutes, but the Grizzlies were unable to solve Titan keeper Jennifer Stuart, who was playing her first collegiate match.
At the other end, senior Kendra McMillen made a season-high eight saves for the Grizzlies.
Montana was without senior midfielder Mary Makris Sunday, as well as senior center back Alyssa Nystrom and senior midfielder/forward Ashley Tombelaine, all of whom are injured. When healthy, all would be starters.
The Grizzlies also have not had junior midfielder/forward Allie Simon, also a projected starter, yet this season. She was injured during the preseason, as was her younger sister, freshman midfielder Jamie Simon.
The younger Simon, who was a potential starter, was lost for the season during the first week of practices.
“Not having some of those players out there hurts us, but you can’t worry about that,” Plakorus said. “We’ve got to go out there with the players we have and compete the best we can and keep trying to get better.
“We’ll take a lot out of this weekend, especially how to handle difficult conditions. Today was hot and humid, some very difficult conditions to play in. But I thought we handled it very well. I was pleased with how hard we worked.”
The Grizzlies next will host the Montana Cup at South Campus Stadium. Montana will face Houston Baptist on Thursday. Houston Baptist will play Utah Valley on Saturday. And the Grizzlies will host the Wolverines next Monday. All three matches begin at 5 p.m.