The Montana soccer team opened its season with a 2-0 victory over Oakland Friday evening at West Lafayette, Ind., in a match that started nearly an hour behind schedule because of a lightning delay.
Junior Chanelle Pederson and sophomore Hallie Widner both scored first-half goals, and senior Kailey Norman collected her 17th career shutout as the Grizzlies improved to 4-0-2 in season openers under sixth-year coach Mark Plakorus.
“I thought it was a good start for us,” he said. “We had some nerves at the beginning, and it took us a little while to get into the game and relax, but once we did, we played really well that first half. We created some dangerous opportunities.”
Facing a team that made the NCAA tournament out of the Horizon League last season, Montana broke through in the 17th minute when Pederson took a pass from junior Allie Lucas and scored inside the left post from just a few yards out.
It was Pederson’s second career goal, Lucas’s fifth career assist.
The Grizzlies made it 2-0 in the 27th minute when Widner, who missed last season with a broken leg, headed in a cross from senior Mary Gintz from six yards out.
It was the eighth career goal for Widner, her first since Oct. 26, 2014. Gintz picked up her sixth career assist, giving Montana’s starting outside backs -- Pederson and Gintz -- a role in both goals.
“That’s something we’ve been working on since last spring. We’re trying to find ways to get them more involved and higher up the field,” said Plakorus. “It’s good to see that both of them were that deep in creating goals for us.”
It was all the scoring Montana, which held Oakland to just six shots, none of which were on goal, would need and a better showing than last Saturday when the Grizzlies had trouble generating quality looks close to goal in their 1-0 exhibition victory over Alberta.
“I thought we moved the ball a lot quicker today. Our timing was better,” said Plakorus. “We were reading things a lot better, and we made better decisions with the ball. That makes it hard to deal with us, so it was a good step forward.”
After being limited to a single shot in the first half, Oakland took five in the second, but none were on goal as Norman picked up the 22nd win of her career.
“The second half I felt we let up a little bit,” said Plakorus. “It got really hot and humid after the delay, and I think that had something to do with it. You can tell it kind of wore on us a little bit. But overall I’m very pleased to get a win to start the year.”
Montana will face Purdue, which hosts Marshall on Friday night, Sunday at 11 a.m. (MT). The Boilermakers defeated the Grizzlies 3-1 last fall in Missoula.