The Montana soccer team improved to 3-0-0 in Big Sky Conference play with a 2-1 victory over Sacramento State Friday afternoon at Hornet Field in Sacramento, Calif.
The Grizzlies (7-5-0, 3-0-0 BSC) went up 1-0 in the sixth minute on a goal by senior Tyler Adair. They added to their lead when redshirt sophomore Savannah Witt scored her first career goal in the 57th minute, then held on for the win after allowing a goal in the 68th minute.
It was just the second win for Montana over Sacramento State (5-7-0, 0-3-0 BSC) since 2003 and the team’s first win at Hornet Field since 2008, and it put the Grizzlies alone atop the Big Sky Conference standings with nine points.
“We played pretty well. We came out really, really well and scored the early goal, then had chances to maybe score a couple more. Then they kind of made a push back in the first half, which you would expect a team to do at home,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus.
“The second half we came out really sharp again, had a couple more really good looks at it, then finally got our second goal. And it seemed like everything was going well, but we made a mistake, and they capitalized on it. The last 20 minutes was a little bit of us hanging on.”
For the fifth time in its last six matches, Montana opened the scoring, and for the third time that goal came less than 10 minutes in.
In the sixth minute senior Paytyn Wheeler put her second shot of match on goal against Sac State keeper Kimberly Mata. It was saved, but Adair was there to put in the rebound for her third goal of the season and the eighth of her career. It was Wheeler’s second assist of the season.
Witt made it 2-0 in the 57th minute and created a story within the story.
The lightning-fast forward had her first two collegiate seasons wiped out because of repeated concussions as a prep player. She finally overcame the symptoms and has been playing wonderfully this fall, but had yet to score her first goal.
“It was so exciting, because it was a fantastic goal,” Plakorus said. “She hit an absolute rocket with her left foot into the upper far corner, into the side netting inside the far post. It was just really neat to see.
“What a day for Savannah. I’m so happy for her with everything she’s been through. It was great to see her get that goal.”
Assisting on the play in storybook fashion was junior Mackenzie Akins, Witt’s roommate the last two years.
“It couldn’t have been more perfect than to have the pass come from Kenz,” said Witt.
“She’s been there for me the whole time and has believed in me through everything. Not knowing if I was going to play, then when I doubted if I was going to be good enough to play anymore at this level, she always had faith in me.”
Witt becomes the fifth UM player to score her first collegiate goal this season, joining redshirt freshman Jamie Simon and freshmen Hallie Widner, Allie Lucas and Maddy Emerick.
The Hornets got outshot 16-13 and put just five shots on goal to the Grizzlies’ 12, but they made it interesting when Adaurie Dayak made it 2-1 in the 68th minute.
Sac State kept the pressure on and forced Montana sophomore goalkeeper Kailey Norman to make a pair of saves in the 84th and 85th minutes before the Grizzlies could finally clear the ball and eat up the last of the clock.
Norman made four saves to collect her seventh win of the season.
Up next for Montana is a match at Portland State Sunday afternoon. The Vikings (4-4-3, 1-1-1 BSC) are the defending Big Sky Conference regular-season champions and were picked first in the preseason coaches’ poll. They collected their first league win Friday afternoon, 3-1 over Eastern Washington.
“I think both teams are pretty well put together, so it’s always going to be a very good game,” said Plakorus. “Every game we’ve played them has been close, and I don’t expect this one to be any different.”
In other Big Sky Conference matches Friday afternoon, Idaho State won 1-0 at home over North Dakota on an Amanda Ellsworth goal in the 86th minute, Northern Colorado won 3-1 at Weber State, and Southern Utah and Idaho played to a 2-2 draw.