Behind goals by freshman Hallie Widner and junior Mackenzie Akins, Montana built a 2-0 second-half lead at Southern Utah Sunday afternoon, but the Thunderbirds rallied for two goals of their own, and the teams ended up in a 2-2 draw.
The tie extended Montana’s unbeaten streak to seven and keeps the Grizzlies (9-5-2, 5-0-2 BSC), who played to a 0-0 draw at Northern Arizona Friday night, alone atop the Big Sky Conference standings with two weekends of league matches remaining.
It was the second time this season Montana has given up a two-goal second-half lead and come away without a win. The Grizzlies held a 3-1 lead late in the second half at Missouri last month and lost 4-3 in overtime.
“Both halves today we came out very, very strong. We looked really good and created a bunch of chances, but then we kind of took our foot off the gas,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus.
“We weren’t sharp enough and focused enough throughout the entire match to put them away. When you have a chance to put a team away, you have to do it.”
For the fourth time this season Montana opened a match’s scoring within the first eight minutes. It was just 2:22 into play Sunday when senior Tyler Adair crossed a ball across the front of the net to Widner, who scored her team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Akins made it 2-0 in the 50th minute when she collected a loose ball on the left side of the box and scored her third goal of the season.
Montana remained in control of the match until the 64th minute when SUU’s Abbie Flandro took a shot from 35 yards out that drifted over Griz sophomore goalkeeper Kailey Norman and under the crossbar to make it 2-1.
“We didn’t track their player, and she snuck one in under the bar. Then it was game on,” said Plakorus. “That gave them a lot of energy and a lot of fight.”
Less than nine minutes later, in the 64th minute, Nancy Brich scored her sixth goal of the season from near the right post to even the match.
“We made another mistake that allowed them to tie it, then it was a battle the rest of the game,” added Plakorus.
“We got a result on the road, but it was still a learning lesson for us. We have to continue to go at teams and press them. We can’t let up.”
Montana outshot its opponent for the eighth time in nine matches, with Akins and Widner both taking a match-high four shots. Norman made five saves in the first half, six for the match.
The draw kept the Grizzlies from adding to their Big Sky Conference lead. Montana has 17 points, three more than Portland State (7-5-4, 4-2-2 BSC) and Idaho (4-11-2, 4-2-2 BSC), though both of those teams have played one more league match than Montana.
The Grizzlies will host North Dakota on Friday and Northern Colorado next Sunday at South Campus Stadium, then close out the regular season at Eastern Washington on Friday, Oct. 31.