For the second time on its two-match road trip to Omaha, Neb., the Montana soccer team gave up an equalizing goal late in regulation. On Friday it resulted in a tie with Nebraska-Omaha. On Sunday it led to a loss at Creighton.
Down 1-0 after Stephanie Carl put the Grizzlies ahead in the 67th minute, the Bluejays scored in the 87th minute to tie the score and needed just 3:48 of the first overtime to rally for a 2-1 victory and their sixth consecutive win.
It was a disappointing result for Montana (2-3-3), which outplayed Creighton (6-2-0) up until Carl scored her first career goal. From that point on, play was mostly in favor of the Bluejays, who took 16 of their 22 shots for the match in the second half and overtime.
“I was very pleased with how we competed today,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus. “We came out and were the better team for 70 minutes.
“But after we took the lead, I thought we lost focus and started playing not to lose instead of playing to win and sticking with what had been working for us.”
Carl’s goal, which came on just her second career shot, came off a corner kick by India Watne. The corner kick bounced and went to Carl, who juked one defender and scored past Creighton keeper Danielle Rice, who had not allowed a goal in more than 200 minutes.
Creighton then went on the offensive. The Bluejays generated three corner kicks after Carl’s goal, and their third opportunity resulted in the game-tying goal. It was nearly identical to the game-tying goal Nebraska-Omaha scored Friday in the 86th minute.
Montana cleared the initial corner kick, but Creighton gained possession, played the ball back toward goal, and Kyla Booker tied it at 86:39 with her second tally of the season.
The game-winner came early in the first overtime following a UM turnover. The Bluejays countered and made a crossing pass that was cleared by Montana, but not cleared far enough. Creighton played it back in and Kirstyn Corder headed in the winner.
“They put a lot of pressure on us, but a lot of it was our own doing by playing not to lose,” Plakorus said. “We were being very reactive and giving them a lot of set pieces, and that’s when they are at their most dangerous.”
It was the fourth time this season Montana has held a second-half lead and not come away with a win. Two, against Air Force and Nebraska-Omaha, resulted in ties. Two, Loyola Marymount and Sunday, came with losses.
“This was another late lead that we should have been able to close out,” Plakorus said. “We as coaches need to do a better job of correcting that part of our game as we move forward.”
Lost amid the frustration of letting one get away Sunday was that Montana was the equal of a team that had whipped its last five opponents by an aggregate score of 21-2, and the Grizzlies did it with their next-woman-up approach to dealing with injuries.
For anyone keeping track, two more key players were out for Sunday’s match after midfielders Britta Hjalmarsson and Ashley Robertson were injured Friday against the Mavericks. That makes nine players who are now unable to play because of injury, at least five of whom would be starters.
Stepping up Sunday was true freshman Jenna Castillo, who did not see her first collegiate minutes until 10 days ago against Houston Baptist. She played 82 minutes when pressed into service on Sunday.
“I thought it was a good response by us against a team that has been putting people away,” said Plakorus. “We weren’t at our best or sharpest Friday, and we let one get away. So today was a good step forward in that sense, but these losses still hurt.”
Montana will try to erase that pain on Friday when the Grizzlies host Nevada at 4 p.m. at South Campus Stadium in their final match before beginning Big Sky Conference play. The Wolf Pack, which hosts Sacramento State Sunday evening, is 1-3-2.