Montana scored a pair of first-half goals and they held up for a 2-0 victory over Colorado State Friday afternoon at South Campus Stadium in the Grizzlies’ home opener.
After starting the season with four straight weeks of road matches, senior Tyler Adair celebrated the team’s homecoming with a goal in the 19th minute and freshman Hallie Widner scored in the 33rd to give Montana (4-4-0) the only cushion it would need against the Rams (2-5-0).
The Grizzlies and sophomore goalkeeper Kailey Norman kept Colorado State off the scoreboard to post their third shutout of the season, their first since Aug. 29.
“I’m really pleased to get the result today. To be able to come out in your home opener and get an early lead and shutout against a quality opponent was really good for the girls,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus.
Adair’s goal, her second of the season and seventh of her career, turned out to be the game-winner. Senior Paytyn Wheeler played a cross from right to left, and the ball made it all the way to Adair, who was storming the far post.
Montana kept the pressure on, and it led to Widner’s goal 14 minutes later. Freshman Allie Lucas played the ball in from the right wing, and after getting clear of traffic out front, Widner scored her second goal of the season from 10 yards out. The assist was Lucas’s second of the season.
“When you get an early goal like that, the other team has to kind of come out at you a little bit,” said Plakorus. “And the more they come out, the more things open up. Getting a pair of goals puts a lot of pressure on the other team.
But instead of things snowballing toward a dominating victory, the teams played evenly for most of the rest of the match, with Colorado State getting a number of dangerous looks in the second half.
“We played well the first 30 minutes or so and then managed the end of the first half. The second half we played more not to lose the lead rather than just continuing to play,” said Plakorus.
“We started reacting, and that allowed them to come at us a little more. They kind of got us on our heels a bit.”
Montana only outshot Colorado State 13-9, and both teams put four shots on goal.
Norman saved all four to earn the shutout. None was more impressive than her diving stop of Jami Vaughn’s header in the 69th minute that kept the Grizzlies up 2-0. That turned out to be the Rams’ final quality opportunity.
Montana outshot Colorado State 5-0 over the final third of the period and almost went up 3-0 when Wheeler’s shot in the 86th minute hit the crossbar and bounced straight down to the goal line before it was cleared.
She was denied the goal, but her assist on Adair’s goal gave Wheeler her first point since her sophomore season.
“Paytyn was fantastic today,” said Plakorus. “I think that was probably one of Paytyn’s best games of her career.”
With freshmen Ashlee Pedersen and Kaitlin Crowell both out with injuries, Montana started senior Brooke Moody and redshirt sophomore Tess Brenneman at center back and redshirt sophomore Mary Gintz and freshman Chanelle Pederson at outside back.
They helped Norman collect the shutout, with Moody, Gintz and Pederson all playing 90 minutes. Adair, too, never left the field.
Montana will face high-scoring Hawaii at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Rainbow Wahine have scored 11 goals in the first three games of their four-match road trip, all against Big Sky Conference opponents.
Hawaii scored eight goals while splitting with Weber State and Idaho State last weekend. On Friday UH downed Eastern Washington 3-1.
“Hawaii is a very good attacking team, and they’re going to be tough to deal with,” said Plakorus, whose team did not earn a single corner kick Friday.
“I didn’t think we attacked very well today. There are a lot of things we can improve on, and I know we can play better.”
Colorado State and Eastern Washington play at 10 a.m. on Sunday.