The Montana soccer team was five minutes and a two-goal lead from picking up an important Big Sky Conference road win Friday night at Northern Arizona, but the Lumberjacks scored in the 86th and 89th minutes to come away with a 2-2 draw with the Grizzlies in Flagstaff.
It was the second time in the last four matches Montana has taken a lead into the final five minutes of regulation, only to settle for a draw. The Grizzlies gave up a late goal in their 1-1 draw at Sacramento State on Sept. 30.
A win would have vaulted Montana (6-5-4, 2-2-2 BSC) into a tie for fourth in the tight Big Sky standings. Instead, the Grizzlies and Northern Arizona (5-7-3, 2-2-2 BSC) remain tied for seventh, looking up at the six teams that would make the league tournament if the cut was made tonight.
“It’s disappointing. I thought we played well enough to come away with a win,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus. “But you have to give a lot of credit to Northern Arizona for not quitting. They kept fighting and giving themselves opportunities.”
Behind a first-half goal by Ashlee Pedersen, Montana’s first against Northern Arizona in 288 minutes in the teams’ recent matchups, and an NAU own goal early in the second half, the Grizzlies were able to take a 2-0 lead into the final five minutes of regulation.
Then disaster struck, with both Northern Arizona goals coming off corner kicks by Heather Donais. The Lumberjacks took eight corner kicks in the second half.
Adrian Nixt scored her sixth goal of the season at 85:48 to make things uncomfortable at 2-1. Carly Gamble evened it at 88:02. Both goals came against Maddie Vincent, who was seeing her first action of the season in goal in place of Kailey Norman and making just her second career start.
“We defended too many corner kicks in the second half, especially late, and that’s a dangerous play,” said Plakorus. “We just didn’t clear them properly.
“Up until this game, I don’t remember us giving up a goal off a corner kick all year. To give up two within two minutes is tough to handle.”
Montana put just one shot on goal in the overtime periods. Northern Arizona put four on goal. Vincent saved all four, part of her career-high seven-save night.
“We did a lot of good things in this match,” said Plakorus. “Maddie Vincent played fantastic in goal. I thought she had a great game. And we did some good things offensively.”
It was the third straight year Montana and Northern Arizona have played to a draw. The Grizzlies are winless against the Lumberjacks since 2012 and have just two wins against NAU since 2007.
“There are a lot of positives we can take out of this, and that’s what we have to do,” said Plakorus. “It’s tough to get road wins in this conference. We were able to get a point, so we’ll take it and move forward. Hopefully we can get some more on Sunday.”
Montana will play at Southern Utah (2-9-2, 1-4-1 BSC) on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Cedar City. The Thunderbirds tied Eastern Washington at home on Friday 3-3.