MISSOULA, Mont. – The Montana Grizzlies battled to a scoreless draw against the Washington State Cougars on Sunday afternoon at South Campus Stadium, earning a double-overtime result.
"I'm really proud of our girls," head coach Mark Plakorus said. "I thought we played really well in every facet of the game, and every person that went into the game played well. That's a very talented team we went up against. They're going to win a lot of games in the Pac-12, and we were right there with them."
Washington State is 5-1-2 on the season, recording shutouts in six of its eight matches. Despite WSU's stellar defense, Montana had several scoring opportunities.
Perhaps more impressive, the Cougars were averaging 3.67 goals per game over the past three contests, but the Griz defense held them scoreless for just the second time this season.
"We limited any good looks they had," Plakorus said. "I thought we were very good defensively, and I thought we were threatening offensively."
Claire Howard tied a career high with six saves in goal, facing 15 total shots. She had several impressive stops, including a diving save in the 18th minute.
"Claire was magnificent," Plakorus said. "The save she had, that's a very difficult ball because there's a lot of people in front of you and it shows up in your vision late. Not a lot of goalkeepers could make that save."
Janessa Fowler had three shots for the Grizzlies, including a free kick in the 58th minute that hit the top of the net. Dani Morris and Chanelle Pederson each had two shots, including back-to-back opportunities late in the first half when Morris was one-on-one and had a clear look before having her shot blocked at the last second. The Grizzlies regained possession but Pederson's shot from deep on the left side was saved.
Montana's best chance, though, came in the 56th minute, when Hallie Widner stole the ball and passed it off to Ellie Otteson, who had her shot stopped by WSU's diving goalie. With the ball still loose in front of the net, Morris got off an attempt in the six-yard box that was blocked.
"We weren't putting a ton of shots on frame – which we will work on – but we had chances," Plakorus said. "The looks we had, we had players in the right places, and we played with a lot of poise and composure when we had the ball."
Montana took two shots in the two overtime periods, with Fowler getting another great opportunity with just two minutes remaining. Washington State's goalie was able to pop away Montana's corner kick, but Claire Steffe regained control. She passed it back to Morris, whose attempt was again poked away by the goalie. The deflection went directly toward a sliding Fowler, whose one-timer went wide.
The overtime draw was even more impressive considering the Grizzlies were down a player for nearly the entire time. Just 2:45 into overtime, Kaitlin Crowell was called for a red card, meaning the Griz were restricted to 10 players for the remainder of the contest.
"We adjusted really well when after that unfortunate situation," Plakorus said. "We did a good job of working together and communicating, and we still got a couple opportunities."
Sunday's tie closes Montana's non-conference slate. The Grizzlies earned a winning record during the preseason with five wins and Sunday's tie. Three of their four setbacks were one-goal losses to Power-5 teams.
"I'm very pleased with our growth over these first 10 games," Plakorus said. "I think we've gotten better every weekend and the girls have been very mature with the adjustments we've been making. You want to be exposed and challenged a bit so that you're prepared for conference season, and I think we've learned a lot. We have to keep our head down and stay hungry and humble and get ready for conference."
First up in Big Sky play is Southern Utah on Sunday at home.