Freshman Mackenzie Akins scored off a rebound in the 107th minute, her first career goal in her first career start, to give the Montana soccer team a dramatic 3-2 double-overtime victory over Idaho Sunday afternoon at Boise State’s Bronco Invitational.
The Grizzlies (3-3-0) twice came back from one-goal deficits to win their second match in a row. Senior Lauren McCreath scored her first career goal in the 58th minute to even the match at one, senior Erin Craig scored her team-leading third goal of the season in the 75th minute to tie the match at two.
“This win says a lot about this team, their willingness to fight and their belief in each other,” second-year coach Mark Plakorus said.
“Their fighting spirit is a unique characteristic of this group that I’ve enjoyed since the day I got here. They are just going to keep going no matter what.”
After a scoreless first half that had just three shots on goal, the teams erupted for 20 shots in the second half and combined to score four goals in the opening 30 minutes of the period.
Idaho (2-4-0) opened the scoring in the 50th minute on Meli Cortez’s second goal of the season.
McCreath answered in the 58th minute, scoring from 35 yards out on a shot that got over Idaho keeper Liz Boyden’s head. McCreath’s goal was assisted by Akins, the freshman’s first collegiate point.
Just over two minutes later sophomore defender Brooke Moody was whistled for a foul in the box after backpedaling into an Idaho attacker who had gotten free after a moment of disorganization by the normally solid Griz defense.
The Vandals’ Chelsea Small netted the penalty kick at 59:34, her 34th career goal, to put Idaho back on top, 2-1.
Idaho held the lead until the 75th minute, when senior Erin Craig, who netted the game-winner in Friday’s 1-0 victory over Boise State, scored her 16th career goal.
Sophomore Tyler Adair fed Craig near the top of the 18-yard box, and Craig turned the drilled the equalizer into the right side of the net.
The scoring for the second period was done, but the opportunities were not. Cortez put a shot off the crossbar in the 78th minute, and Craig and sophomore Paytyn Wheeler both put shots on goal for Montana before the end of regulation.
Neither team put a shot on goal in the first overtime, and Montana had to withstand a pair of Idaho corner kicks early in the second overtime and a shot by Small in the 106th minute that Griz keeper Kristen Hoon saved.
The Grizzlies’ game-winner started when junior midfielder Mary Makris took a corner kick. Senior defender Lauren Costa gained possession and took a shot that was saved on the goal line by an Idaho defender. The rebound came out to Akins, who scored from six yards out.
Costa received the assist, the fourth of her career.
“Mackenzie was right where she needed to be,” Plakorus said. “There was traffic in front, but she stayed composed and had a good finish.”
Akins’ game-winner was just one of 25 shots taken by Montana in the match, a season high and the most in a match since early in the 2011 season. The Grizzlies put 11 of their 25 shots on goal.
Montana’s shots this season through six games have been steadily rising: 7-7-12-13-20-25. On Sunday, nine of Montana’s 10 non-keeper starters took at least one shot in a notably balanced attack, highlighted by Craig’s career-high seven.
“The team is growing and becoming more and more comfortable with each other, and the numbers reflect that,” Plakorus said. “We’re really making a concerted effort to attack as much as we can and not hold anything back.
“We moved the ball well today, and we have players who are looking to do things and make an impact.”
Montana won without the services of two of its most potent offensive weapons. Junior India Watne and sophomore Allie Simon were both sidelined with injuries.
Akins was one of the players who stepped up, playing a season-high 73 minutes. Sophomore defender Shannon Lindsay also got her first career start.
“We had some injuries to overcome today, so other players had to step up for us. And they did,” Plakorus said.
Montana out-shot Idaho 25-17 and put 11 shots on goal to the Vandals’ six. Hoon (3-3-0) made four saves -- two in the first half, one in the second and one on Small in the second overtime -- while going the distance in goal. It was her third win of the season and the ninth of her career.
“We came prepared to play today, and that was important because we know Idaho is a well-coached and experienced team,” Plakorus said.
“It was a great soccer match. I’m proud of how we competed and how we put ourselves in a position to get the result.”
Montana will be on the road for the fourth straight weekend next Friday and Sunday when the Grizzlies compete at the UNLV Nike Invitational in Las Vegas. The Grizzlies will face Indiana State Friday at 5:30 p.m. (MT) and the host Rebels Sunday at 2 p.m. (MT).