Freshman goalkeeper Olivia Swenson made 10 saves and Kaylee Kebba scored the game-winner in the 87th minute to give North Dakota a 2-1 victory over Montana Friday afternoon at UND’s Bronson Field in Grand Forks in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams.
Montana (3-6-1, 0-1-0 BSC), riding an 11-match unbeaten streak, lost its first regular-season Big Sky game since October 2013. North Dakota (3-5-1, 1-0-0 BSC) won just its second league match since joining the Big Sky prior to the 2012 season.
The Grizzlies were 6-0-0 against UND entering the match, with a scoring differential of 23-2, and the opportunities were there for that trend to continue.
Montana took 20 shots and put a season-high 11 on goal, but behind Swenson and an opportunistic offense that scored twice on just three shots on goal, North Dakota sits with Portland State, Eastern Washington, Idaho and Sacramento State -- Friday’s other winners -- atop the Big Sky standings.
“Their goalkeeper was fantastic. She was really, really good. She probably stopped five or six sure goals,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus. “It was just one of those days when a goalkeeper stands on her head and keeps her team in the game, and then they got a couple of chances and put two in.”
Mackenzie Akins scored her third goal of the season and 13th of her career to put Montana up 1-0 in the 18th minute. The Grizzlies outshot UND 9-5 in the first half and 11-5 in the second, but Akins’ goal would be the team’s only scoring. Akins took eight shots in the match, putting six on goal, both career highs.
“It’s disappointing because I thought we played well and controlled the game,” said Plakorus. “We possessed the ball the whole time, and we created opportunities left and right. We just didn’t put the ball in the back of the net. We could have ended the match four or five times, and we didn’t do it.
“We were much more dangerous than we’ve been in quite a while, but we were reactive in front of the goal again. That, combined with their goalkeeper playing the way she did, made it tough for us to score.”
North Dakota evened the score at 1-1 in the 28th minute when Bella Mantaro scored her first goal of the season. The teams remained deadlocked the next 57 minutes, until Kebba scored the game-winner at 86:41 on what was North Dakota’s third shot on goal of the match.
“They had a corner kick we didn’t clear very well. We didn’t mark up the second runners, and they got a good look from just inside the box and scored,” said Plakorus.
“The overall effort was good by us. They are an improved team, but I still thought we controlled the game and played really well. We made two defensive mistakes, and they really hurt us.”
Montana will play at Northern Colorado (5-4-0, 0-0-0 BSC) Sunday at 1 p.m. in Greeley.