Senior Mackenzie Akins scored 93 seconds into the match, and the goal stood up as the game-winner as the Montana soccer team won 1-0 Friday night over Nevada in Reno.
The Grizzlies (2-0-1) remain unbeaten on the season with the victory. The Wolf Pack (0-1-1) suffered their first loss.
It didn’t take long for the only senior on Montana’s roster to give her team the lead. Akins took a ball on the left side, 30 yards out. She turned her defender, got to the front of the box and curled her shot inside the right post.
It was the 11th goal of her career and the first of the season for Akins, who sat out last Friday’s season-opening draw against Wyoming with a bad back, then played limited minutes off the bench in Sunday’s double-overtime victory over Indiana State.
“Mackenzie has so much experience and just means so much for us. She is a talented player that provides a lot for our team,” said fifth-year coach Mark Plakorus.
“After not being able to play our first game, then getting to play a little bit more on Sunday, I was happy for her that she got her first goal tonight. And it turned out to be the game-winning goal.”
That’s because Montana made it stand the final 88 minutes. Nevada generated just eight shots, a season low allowed by the Grizzlies, and just three of them were on goal. Junior Kailey Norman stopped all three to collect her 11th career shutout.
“You always hope to get a goal that early, but you don’t really ever expect one,” said Plakorus. “Right away that changes the game. It puts more pressure on them to be right with everything and gives you a little bit of breathing room.”
Nevada did not get a shot off until the 23rd minute of the match. The Wolf Pack’s only threatening opportunity in Montana’s end came in the 62nd minute when Daisha Jones-Oglesby’s header off a corner kick went off the football crossbar situated above the goal in Mackay Stadium.
Plakorus opted to rest sophomore outside back Ashlee Pedersen, and that provided an opportunity for freshman Raquel Watts to make her collegiate debut. Watts played 21 key minutes, with junior center back Tess Brenneman and sophomore outside back Chanelle Pederson both playing all 90 minutes.
Montana went eight deep off its bench and made a number of second-half substitutions with its thin crew of defenders in mind.
“We decided not to play Ashlee to try to get her a little healthier, so we were a little limited in our back,” said Plakorus. “We tried to keep fresh legs in front of them to try to protect the back line.
“I was very pleased with the growth of our back line tonight. Raquel got her first taste of college soccer, and I thought she was fantastic.”
For the second straight match, sophomore Jamie Simon led Montana in shots, with four. Akins and Aspen Peifer, who sent one wide right in the 53rd minute after Nevada keeper Kelsey Quintos got dangerously out of position, both took two shots.
Montana will play at Utah Valley Sunday at 11 a.m. at Orem, Utah. The Wolverines (2-1-0) won at home Friday night, 1-0 over Utah State with a goal in the 81st minute.
It was the second straight home shutout for Utah Valley after opening the season with a 6-0 loss at San Diego State.