Griz lose match, gain tournament spot
Published: October 23, 2011
The Montana soccer team dropped its final regular-season Big Sky Conference match at Northern Colorado Sunday afternoon at Greeley, Colo., 2-0, but the Grizzlies had something to celebrate less than an hour later: A spot in the Big Sky Conference tournament.
With Weber State’s 1-0 victory over Sacramento State Sunday, Montana (6-10-2, 3-3-1 BSC) finished fourth in the final league standings and will take the No. 4 seed into the tournament, which will be held in two weeks at Greeley.
The Grizzlies will face the top-seeded Bears (7-7-4, 4-1-2 BSC) Friday, Nov. 4, at 6 p.m. at UNC’s Jackson Stadium. That match will follow the first semifinal between No. 2 Portland State (8-7-2, 4-1-2 BSC) and No. 3 Weber State (6-10-1, 4-2-1 BSC). That match will start at 3 p.m.
The winners will meet in the championship match Sunday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m.
“This is great for the team. The girls have worked so hard since February to make this happen,” said first-year coach Mark Plakorus.
“Now we’re in a position to compete for a conference championship, and in a tournament anything can happen.”
Montana went into Sunday’s match with the possibility of winning the regular-season Big Sky Conference championship, and the Grizzlies, who haven’t been to the tournament since 2008, showed their callowness.
Junior keeper Kristen Hoon misplayed a clearing opportunity in the opening minutes, and Ariel Cook took advantage for UNC, scoring from nearly 30 yards out on a floater over Hoon’s head just 3:57 into the match.
It would be the only goal Northern Colorado would need.
“I think the moment of the game and the opportunity it gave us maybe rattled us a little,” Plakorus said. “As I’ve said before, this is a learning process, and to play in a game with this much at stake is something we have to learn to deal with.”
The teams were scoreless for the next 70 minutes until Cook scored again in the 76th minute to put the match out of reach. Her shot from six yards out ricocheted off a Griz player and past Hoon.
“The early goal gave them momentum, and that forced us to chase the game, and that’s hard to do,” Plakorus said.
“Northern Colorado is a very good team, probably the best team in the conference, but we were still able to control play for long periods of time. We battled today and did some good things.”
Northern Colorado took 19 shots to Montana’s 11, but the Bears put only four on goal. The Grizzlies put three shots on goal, and Kirstin Salminen stopped all three to record her sixth shutout of the season.
Sophomore Mary Makris took three shots to lead Montana, which couldn’t convert any of its seven corner kick opportunities.
The Grizzlies will play their final regular-season match Friday at Seattle University. The match starts at 4 p.m. (MT).
Game notes: The UNC goals were Cook’s third and fourth of the season. ... Junior Erin Craig was held to one shot, which matched a season low. ... Freshman Brooke Moody, from Parker, Colo., returned to action and played 26 minutes after missing the three previous matches with a shoulder injury. ... It was the sixth shutout loss of the season for the Grizzlies.