Griz shut out Wyoming in season opener
Article Written by Joel Carlson
Published: August 17, 2012
The Montana soccer team got goals from seniors Ashley Tombelaine and Erin Craig, and senior Kristen Hoon recorded her fourth career shutout in the Grizzlies’ 2-0 victory over Wyoming Friday afternoon at Laramie, Wyo. The match was the season opener for both teams.
It was the first time in program history Montana has opened a season with a shutout victory on the road, and the Grizzlies did it against an experienced team that won 12 matches last season and had eight starters returning.
“It was a good game between two good teams. There were not a lot of shots in the first half because both teams were kind of feeling each other out, and both defenses made it tough to get anything going,” second-year coach Mark Plakorus said.
“Things opened up a little more in the second half, but it was still a grind-it-out type of game. Pretty typical for the first game of the year. I’m really pleased we had the composure and fight to come away with the victory.”
Tombelaine scored the season’s first goal in the 16th minute. A series of passes put the ball on the feet of junior India Watne wide on the left side, which is frequently the precursor to something positive.
“Ashley got in behind the defense, and India played a great through-ball,” Plakorus said. Tombelaine finished with her left foot for her fifth career goal.
Watne started where she left off last season, when she led the Big Sky Conference in assists with eight. The assist was the 11th of her career and moves her into the top 10 in program history with half of her career still to come.
The teams combined to take just three first-half shots. Tombelaine’s goal was Montana’s only shot in the first 45 minutes.
In a match with few scoring chances and the Grizzlies’ stout defense, Craig’s goal in the 56th minute was all the insurance Montana would need.
Senior Lauren Costa took a free kick from near the center circle, and Craig executed the set piece to perfection. She beat Wyoming keeper Courtney Merkle to the ball and headed in her 14th career goal from six yards out.
Montana’s two goals and two assists came from three seniors and one junior, three of whom -- Costa, Craig and Watne -- were first-team All-Big Sky Conference a year ago.
“Coming into this year all our players were familiar with how we want to play,” Plakorus said. ““We expect to create scoring opportunities, and then we expect our players to have the composure to put those chances away. And today Ashley and Erin put them in for us.”
After posting just two shutouts in 2011 and allowing 42 goals in 22 matches, Montana’s defense showed new form Friday.
Hoon played all 90 minutes in net. Seven of Wyoming’s nine shots were on goal, including five in the second half as Hoon preserved the shutout.
In front of Hoon, Costa and junior Alyssa Nystrom both played 90 minutes and senior Kate Wilkins and junior Maddey Frey played 79.
“We made a decision midway through last season that we had to get better defensively, and we’ve really been working at it,” Plakorus said. “They’ve really gotten good as a unit, and they were great today.
“And Kristen was fantastic. I think that’s one of the best games I’ve seen her play.”
Montana will play Air Force Sunday at 1 p.m. at Colorado Springs, Colo. The Falcons opened their season Friday evening with a 3-0 victory over Lamar.
Notes: Montana took seven shots in the match to Wyoming’s nine. ... The Grizzlies scored on two of their three shots on goal. ... Tombelaine took four of the team’s seven shots, one short of a career high. ... Costa’s assist was the third of her career. ... Costa is at it again. She played every minute of every match last season. ... Nine of Montana’s starters were upperclassmen. Sophomores Tyler Adair and Paytyn Wheeler also started. ... Mackenzie Akins, who played 44 minutes, was the only true freshman to see action Friday. ... Wyoming took five corner kicks to Montana’s four. ... Frey received a yellow card in the 66th minute.