The Montana and Wyoming soccer teams played to a 0-0 double-overtime draw Friday evening at South Campus Stadium in Missoula in the season-opening match for both teams.
Though his team did not score, fifth-year coach Mark Plakorus had plenty to be pleased with. A starting lineup made up of nine underclassmen, including three true freshmen, played even with one of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference that had had the benefit of two recent exhibition games.
“As a starting point, this was a good start for us. The result was the result, but I was very pleased with how we played tonight. We played with great intensity and were smart, and we played very well as a team,” said Plakorus.
Montana took just seven shots and put only one on goal, but the Grizzlies were not without their chances to produce the game-winner.
Redshirt sophomore midfielder Jamie Simon got free on the right side and took a shot that Wyoming keeper Georgia Rowntree got just enough of to deflect wide right in the 35th minute, and sophomore Maddy Emerick sent a rolling shot inches off the right post in the first half’s closing seconds.
The Grizzlies’ last best chance came in the 54th minute when freshman forward Ellie Otteson headed a cross from sophomore midfielder Allie Lucas over the crossbar.
“Attacking-wise I thought we were very good. We had composure with the ball and patience in our attack, and created a number of opportunities,” said Plakorus.
“We were just a little off on our timing, which is not surprising this early in the season. We were in the right places, people were making the right decisions, and the balls were being put in the right place.”
Montana started junior Kailey Norman in goal, and she was tested early. Wyoming’s Shaina Ashouri got free on the left side less than six minutes in, but Norman was there to stonewall the opportunity.
Norman’s toughest save came in the 43rd minute on a play that was about to be whistled dead on an offside call. The keeper took a hard-struck ball to her face and did not play the second half or overtime periods.
That left the job to redshirt sophomore Maddie Vincent, who entered the match with less than 20 minutes of career on-field experience. She made four saves over the final 65 minutes to keep the Cowgirls off the scoreboard.
She was one of a number of young subs that Plakorus had to go to due to prior or in-game injuries. He went 12 deep off his bench, four of whom were making their collegiate debuts as either true or redshirt freshmen.
“We had to go a little deep in our roster, and the players did a great job of being ready when it was their chance to step up. The best thing to me was that no matter who we put on the field, things didn’t really drop off,” he said.
“Even though some of them are young, they know the expectations we have for them and that you have to perform on the field. Your age doesn’t matter.”
Montana, in addition to the absence of Hallie Widner, who will miss the season with a broken leg, played Friday without senior Mackenzie Akins. Widner and Akins were Montana’s leading scorers last season.
Wyoming played without Kaitlyn Lomsnes, last year’s Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year who was out with an ankle injury. The Cowgirls took 11 shots for the match, putting six on goal.
The Grizzlies will wrap up their season-opening weekend with a home match Sunday at 1 p.m. against Indiana State, which lost to Idaho 3-1 Friday afternoon at South Campus Stadium.