MISSOULA, Mont. – The Montana Grizzlies opened up Big Sky Conference play on Sunday afternoon by defeating Southern Utah, 1-0. Montana took a season-most 19 shots, and it was the 17th that was the difference, when Allie Lucas scored off of a free kick in the 79th minute.
"We work on our set pieces quite a bit," head coach Mark Plakorus said. It's something we have emphasized a bit more this year. Allie got a good knock on it and got it up over the goalkeeper. I'm happy for her; she's been working hard in practice and it was good to see her get something in the game."
With Ashlee Pedersen cutting inside, SUU (1-9-0, 0-2-0 BSC) was whistled for a foul, giving UM (6-4-1, 1-0-0 BSC) a free kick. Janessa Fowler took the kick and perfectly lofted the ball just outside of the six-yard box. With the ball still hanging in the air, Lucas was able to knock it in, past a diving goalkeeper.
"I saw two people go up for the ball and it came down and just landed on my foot and went in," Lucas described. "It was a beautifully placed ball."
Montana's defense was superb, allowing Claire Howard to post her third shutout of the season. SUU didn't get its first shot off until the 36th minute and wasn't able to take a single shot on goal all day. In total, the Grizzles out-shot the Thunderbirds 19-3.
UM has now gone more than 286 minutes since last allowing a goal, which came in the fourth minute at Oregon on Sept. 15.
Despite the 19 shots, the Griz offense wasn't as aggressive as Plakorus had hoped, leaving better looks on the table.
"I didn't think we made good decisions," Plakorus said. "We weren't aggressive enough running at the goal to make our opportunities more dangerous."
Part of that, he credited to Southern Utah, praising the Thunderbirds' game plan and calling the game a dog fight. But he also was disappointed in his team's effort.
"We didn't adjust well," he said. "We have to prepare better and I have to get them to play at a higher level. I'm glad we fought and kept ourselves in it, but I thought we were very hesitant today."
Eleven different players took shots for UM, including Raye Burton, Dani Morris and Hallie Widner taking three apiece. Overall, UM had seven shots on goal.
With the win, UM remains unbeaten at home this season, improving to 3-0-1. Lucas' goal was her second of the season and seventh of her career. It was the Grizzlies' first goal scored since a Sept. 10 win at Northern Iowa.
Next up, Montana will continue league action on the road. The Griz will take on Idaho State on Friday, followed by Weber State on Sunday.