Hallie Widner’s goal in the 87th minute, her third goal in three matches to start the season, allowed the Montana soccer team to come away with a 1-1 draw against Wyoming Friday afternoon in Laramie.
It was the third time in four years Montana (2-0-1) has played to an early-season, low-scoring draw against Wyoming (2-0-1). Both teams remain unbeaten on the season with the tie.
“It’s always a very difficult game when we play Wyoming, especially in Laramie,” said sixth-year coach Mark Plakorus, whose team was outshot 13-4.
“The whole game we were a little bit off today. Part of that was the pressure Wyoming was putting on us, but it was also one of those games where it wasn’t clicking for us. We didn’t have the energy we needed or intensity and focus to play at a high level. It was a struggle for us.”
The Cowgirls were on the Grizzlies from the opening minutes, forcing senior goalkeeper Kailey Norman to have to make two early saves to keep the match scoreless.
All but one of Wyoming’s first-half shots came in the opening 20 minutes.
“Right off the bat Wyoming came after us pretty hard. We were fortunate. Kailey made a great save to keep the game at zeroes,” said Plakorus.
“We fought our way into the game, and I thought we started to assert ourselves a bit, but we weren’t able to get any good looks.”
The teams went into the half scoreless, with Norman’s three first-half saves the difference.
Norman was called upon again in the opening minute of the second half when Montana was whistled for a foul in the box, giving Wyoming a penalty kick. Norman made the save on Alisha Bass and made another less than a minute later on an attempted header.
In the 57th minute the Cowgirls finally broke through, turning a Montana miscue into a breakaway off a through-ball that Michaela Stark put away for her first goal of the season.
“I thought we had things figured out at halftime in terms of what we were going to try to do, but in the second half I thought we lost our composure a little bit,” said Plakorus.
“Wyoming played us a little bit higher and pressed us a little more. Rather than being composed, I thought we got a little jittery, and that played right into Wyoming’s hands.”
Montana didn’t take its first shot of the second half until 87th minute. Ashlee Pedersen outran a Wyoming defender to a ball played up the line. She cut inside and chipped a ball that Widner headed in.
“I’m really proud of the team,” said Plakorus. “We didn’t back off or quit. We kept fighting and battling and scored a fantastic goal to tie it up. It was an unbelievable goal, but that’s Hallie being Hallie.”
Montana, which pulled even with Purdue last Sunday on a goal by Widner in the 84th minute before winning 2-1 in overtime, almost snuck out a win in regulation when Widner headed a ball to the front of the goal in the 89th minute that Ellie Otteson headed just over the crossbar.
The teams only combined to take two shots in the two 10-minute overtime periods.
Montana’s starters only got off two shots for the match, Widner’s and Otteson’s headers late in regulation. And yet the Grizzlies leave Laramie with a draw.
“I thought it was good to get a result on the road when you don’t play your best,” said Plakorus.
Montana will face Denver (1-2-0) at noon on Sunday in a game that will be broadcast regionally on Altitude. The Pioneers picked up their first win of the season Friday night, defeating Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 2-1 at DU’s CIBER Field.