Freshman Hallie Widner scored her team-leading third goal of the season in the 19th minute, and it held up as the game-winner as the Montana soccer team opened its Big Sky Conference schedule with a 1-0 shutout of Weber State Friday afternoon at South Campus Stadium in Missoula.
The Grizzlies, at 5-5-0, moved back to .500 on the season while handing the Wildcats (3-7-0, 0-1-0 BSC) their fifth straight loss.
Montana outshot Weber State 14-4, didn’t allow a second-half shot and had a huge advantage in possession, but the Grizzlies also were never in total control because of the one-goal margin and their inability to turn that possession advantage into a proportionate amount of opportunities.
“I don’t think we played relaxed and had as much fun as we usually do,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus. “Part of it was them, part of it was us. We were a little slow in our decisions, and we didn’t attack and get behind them enough. We weren’t as sharp as we have been.
“We were just a little bit off today, but we worked extremely hard and did just enough to get the win. It was a grind-it-out win. We’re 1-0 in conference and picked up three points, and in conference it’s all about getting results.”
Montana could have put the match out of reach in the opening 20 minutes, when a number of players had opportunities.
With the WSU keeper out of the play in the 10th minute, Widner had a 1-v-1 against a Weber State defender, but she hesitated just long enough for a second Wildcat defender to close in and block her shot.
She redeemed herself in the 19th minute, courtesy of Chloe Torres, who is having a breakout senior season.
Torres crossed a ball from right to left. The pass went just over Widner’s head in front of the goal. The Weber State defender behind Widner brought the ball down to Widner’s feet, and the freshman turned her shot from eight yards out into her first career game-winner.
For Torres it was her team-leading third assist of the season and it gives her seven points. She had three for her career entering her senior year.
Weber State didn’t get a shot the final 50 minutes of the match and had just one corner kick all afternoon. Montana, which created eight corner kicks, put four of its six second-half shots on goal, but none required Wildcat keeper Danielle MacKay to be exceptional.
“Hallie scored a good goal to give us the lead, then we kind of did yeoman’s work to get it done, and sometimes you need to do that,” Plakorus said. “Good teams get wins when they are not at their absolute best, and that’s what we did.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Kailey Norman was never really put to the test. She only faced four shots and did not need to make a save the final 78 minutes to record her fourth shutout of the year.
Montana will need to be sharper on Sunday when its hosts Idaho State (4-4-0, 1-0-0 BSC) at 1 p.m. at South Campus Stadium. The Bengals, who won 2-1 in double overtime at Eastern Washington Friday afternoon, are the Big Sky’s highest-scoring team.
“Sunday should be a fantastic game. It’s going to be an exciting and high-energy game, and we’ve got to be ready for it,” Plakorus said.
Match notes: Freshman midfielder Allie Lucas made her first start of the season. ... Junior Mackenzie Akins and redshirt freshman Jamie Simon both took a team-high three shots. ... Seniors Tyler Adair and Brooke Moody and redshirt sophomore Mary Gintz all played 90 minutes. ... Freshman midfielder/forward Madison Adams made her collegiate debut Friday, with a few minutes played late in the first and second halves. She is returning to action following a knee injury. ... Montana improved to 12-11-2 all-time against Weber State. ... The win was only the second in the Grizzlies’ last six meetings against the Wildcats. ... In other Big Sky matches Friday afternoon, Idaho picked up its first win of the season with a surprising 3-2 victory over Northern Colorado in Moscow, and Southern Utah won at home over Sacramento State 2-1. ... Portland State plays at Northern Arizona Friday night.