Senior Brooke Moody converted a penalty kick in the sixth minute of the first overtime to give the Montana soccer team a 1-0 victory over Idaho Friday afternoon at South Campus Stadium in Missoula.
With the Grizzlies on the attack, as they were for most of the second half and overtime, a rebound bounced out to redshirt sophomore Savannah Witt near the top of the box. Witt touched the ball away from a defender and into open space, and the defender pulled Witt to the ground.
Moody took the penalty kick and drilled home the game-winner, low and to the right, for her fourth career goal. Three of those have come on penalty kicks.
“It was a lot of pressure walking up to the ball, but I knew I wasn’t going to let my teammates down,” said Moody. “You just need to stay composed.
“I’m confident, because I practice those over and over again, and (UM coach Mark Plakorus) knows that, so I think he’s confident in me as well.”
The win moves the Grizzlies (9-5-0) to 5-0-0 in Big Sky Conference matches as they reach the midpoint of their 10-game league schedule. It was the first conference loss of the season for the Vandals (3-10-1, 3-1-1 BSC), who began the day on a four-match unbeaten streak.
The teams combined for just eight shots and one corner kick in a first half that produced few threats. That changed in the second half, at least for Montana.
Freshman Hallie Widner headed a cross from Witt off the crossbar in the 59th minute. Senior Paytyn Wheeler had a shot that was saved by an Idaho defender near the goal line in the 69th minute. And junior Mackenzie Akins got free in the 75th minute but sent her shot into the right side of the net.
“I thought the first half we were a little too cautious. The second half we played extremely well and attacked like crazy. We talked at halftime about being more aggressive and being relentless in our attack, and I thought we did that,” said Plakorus.
“We turned it around from the first half and played very well. I’m pleased about that.”
Montana outshot Idaho 10-2 in the second half and 18-5 for the match, but for all of the Grizzlies’ chances, only five of those 18 shots were put on goal, and that included the penalty kick.
“We were very aggressive and created a bunch of chances today, but we weren’t very aggressive inside the box getting on the end of balls that were put in,” said Plakorus.
“We weren’t really striking balls to strike them. We were striking balls hoping they would go in instead of just hitting them as hard as we could. (Idaho’s) backs did a nice job swarming around the ball and defending, but we need to be more aggressive and finish those off.”
Sophomore Kailey Norman collected her sixth shutout of the season, and she didn’t need to make a save to do it.
Montana players have combined to miss nearly 100 matches this season because of injury, and the Grizzlies will enter the back half of their Big Sky schedule with two more sidelined, one a starter, one an important reserve.
Redshirt freshman Jamie Simon, who was the team’s lone healthy defensive midfielder, had to be carried off the field in the 26th minute after getting kneed in the hip. Redshirt freshman Payton Agnew suffered a concussion in the 70th minute.
Two casualties from a match in which Idaho was whistled for 14 fouls and one yellow card.
And yet Montana has won five straight and six of seven, and sits atop the Big Sky Conference.
“I’m really proud of this team and how it keeps pushing forward and competing, even when we keep dealing with all these injuries,” said Plakorus, whose team faces a long, challenging road trip next week to Northern Arizona and Southern Utah.
“These injuries are really putting a strain on us. Not having a game on Sunday is a good thing right now, because we have a pretty depleted bench.”
In other Big Sky Conference matches Friday afternoon, Sacramento State picked up its first league win with a 2-0 victory at home over Weber State, Portland State won 1-0 at Idaho State, and Northern Arizona won 3-0 at North Dakota. Northern Colorado hosts Southern Utah Friday night.