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Griz win in shootout to advance to title match

Published: November 5, 2011
The Montana soccer team advanced to the title match of the 2011 Big Sky Conference Championship with a 3-2 shootout victory over top seed and host Northern Colorado Friday evening at Greeley, Colo. After playing to a 1-1 double-overtime draw, the Grizzlies got a pair of saves from junior goalkeeper Kristen Hoon in the shootout, and junior Ashley Tombelaine, sophomore India Watne and junior Lauren Costa all converted penalty kicks. With Montana (6-11-3) going second in the shootout, Costa broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth and final round of shots to send the Grizzlies to Sunday’s championship match against No. 3 Weber State, the program’s first title match since 2004. The No. 3 Wildcats upset No. 2 Portland State Friday afternoon, 4-3 in a shootout following a 0-0 draw. No. 4 Montana and Weber State will play at 1 p.m. Sunday, with the winner advancing to the NCAA tournament. “This was one of the best soccer games I’ve been involved with as a college coach,” UM coach Mark Plakorus said. “It was just a great college soccer game. End to end, with both teams doing everything they could to extend their season.” Northern Colorado opened the match’s scoring at 23:11 when Brittany Dunn beat Hoon inside the left post from the top of the 18-yard box. It was the only goal the Bears would get in the first half despite being the early aggressor. UNC took 10 first-half shot and created three corner kick opportunities. “They were at home, and they came out with a lot of energy,” Plakorus said. “We had a lot of players who were experiencing their first match of this kind. “They put us under a lot of pressure, but we weathered that and settled down. It was an even battle after we got settled.” Montana took nine shots in the second half, putting six on goal. Kirstin Salminen, the 2011 Big Sky Conference Goalkeeper of the Year, made five saves. The shot she didn’t stop evened the score in the 70th minute. Junior Erin Craig received a throw-in to the left of the goal. She spun toward the end line and sent a left-footed cross to the far post, where redshirt freshman Ashley Robertson was waiting to head home her second goal of the season. After two scoreless overtime periods, Montana sent Costa, Tombelaine, Watne, Craig and freshman Paytyn Wheeler out to take the Grizzlies’ penalty kicks. “I leave that decision up to the players,” Plakorus explained. “We ask who wants to take one, and those players stepped up.” The teams traded goals through the first round of kicks, with Madison Yoswa converting for the Bears and Tombelaine for the Grizzlies. Northern Colorado would miss its next three attempts. Ariel Cook sent her shot high, and Tara Rickenbach’s and Eryn Daniel’s shots were saved by Hoon. “I was very pleased with Kristen and her focus during the shootout,” Plakorus said. “As the goalkeeper you’re at a disadvantage, and you’re not supposed to save those. “That she saved two of the three they didn’t convert was very, very good.” Salminen stopped Craig and Wheeler on Montana’s second and third shots. Watne’s goal in the fourth round gave Montana a 2-1 lead heading into the fifth and final round of shots. With Northern Colorado’s season on the line, Alexsys Tamayo scored high and left and evened the score 2-2. Costa went high and right to dramatically end the match. “You always want to have your captain and the leader of your team in those situations,” Plakorus said. “I was very, very confident with her walking up to that ball.” Montana and Weber State, the two most historically successful programs in the Big Sky Conference, will meet Sunday for the fourth time in a Big Sky championship match. The Grizzlies defeated the Wildcats in the 1997 title match, and the Wildcats won in 1998 and 2004. Weber State (6-10-2) won the regular-season meeting last month at Ogden, Utah, 1-0, with a goal in the 82nd minute.
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