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Griz win Big Sky opener in closing minutes

Published: September 30, 2011
Freshman Paytyn Wheeler scored in the 86th minute to give Montana a dramatic 1-0 victory over Eastern Washington Friday afternoon at South Campus Stadium in Missoula. The match was the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams. In a match rife with scoring opportunities for both teams – four crossbars were hit, two by each team – it was the Grizzlies (4-6-1, 1-0-0 BSC) that broke through first. Their goal – at 85:10 – came late enough that the Eagles (1-8-0, 0-1-0 BSC) were not able to put together a response. The match’s decisive play started at midfield when freshman Tyler Adair collected a loose ball and played a pass forward toward junior Erin Craig, who was streaking toward the goal alongside a pair of EWU defenders. Craig outraced them to the ball and was clear for a one-on-one breakaway when she was taken down from behind just outside the 18-yard box by Eastern Washington’s Katelyn Cashman. Cashman was given a red card on the play and sent off the field. Junior Ashley Tombelaine took the ensuing free kick, and her drive from 20 yards out went high off the crossbar. The ball came down near the right post, and junior Lauren McCreath skied above the crowd and headed the ball toward the far side of the goal. The pass found Wheeler, who scored her second goal of the season with her midsection. “McCreath was at the far post, so I knew she was going to head it across. I just waited for her, and once I saw her head it I ran to the goal and ran through the ball,” Wheeler said. That Wheeler scored with her midsection was not by accident. “We always tell the kids when they’re shooting that they have to run through the ball. Don’t ever stop and try to swing or anything like that,” UM coach Mark Plakorus said. “You want your momentum to continue toward the goal. Paytyn did a good job of getting on the end of it and making sure it went in.” With fewer than five minutes remaining when the game restarted, Montana was able to ice the game, and Eastern Washington could not mount a counterattack. The Grizzlies opened the match strong and put immediate pressure on Eastern Washington keeper Jamie Walker, who took the loss to drop to 1-5-0. Montana took four shots – putting two on goal – and generated a corner kick in the opening 11 minutes before the Eagles mounted any sort of organized attack. Eastern Washington did not attempt its first shot until the 18th minute, and the teams played evenly the remainder of the first half. EWU’s Cassie Black put a shot off the crossbar in the in the 28th minute, and Lauren Jacobsen squandered an opportunity when she took a Montana turnover, spun toward goal and sent a shot high from 15 yards out, not realizing until it was too late that there was nobody between her and Griz junior keeper Kristen Hoon. Eastern’s Whitney Brannan hit the crossbar early in the second half, and Montana junior Lauren Costa hit the crossbar in the 68th minute off a free kick. Junior Ashley Tombelaine, who was questionable heading into the match, generated some of Montana’s best second-half scoring opportunities. Her shot from 12 yards out in the 68th minute was saved by Walker, and she sent her drive in the 71st minute wide right. “I thought today was one of our more complete games, attacking and defending,” Plakorus added. “We had some opportunities, but (Walker) came up with some very good saves. I thought she did a very good job of doing what you’re supposed to do as a goalkeeper, but we just kept pounding away and kept after it. “That’s this team’s mentality. No matter what happens, they just keep going. I’m glad they got something in return for their efforts today.” Montana out-shot Eastern Washington 18 to 12, with the Grizzlies putting six shots on goal. Tombelaine took a team-high five shots, and 10 different Montana players recorded a shot. The Eagles put just one of their 12 shots on goal. Hoon made the only save she needed for the shutout in the 18th minute. It was Montana’s first shutout of the season and the second of Hoon’s career. Hoon improved to 3-4-0 with the victory. Montana will face Gonzaga (6-4-0) Sunday at 2 p.m. (MT). The Bulldogs won at Seattle University Friday afternoon, 2-0.
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