The Montana soccer team remained unbeaten through six Big Sky Conference matches by playing to a 0-0 draw with Northern Arizona Friday night at Flagstaff, Ariz.
The Grizzlies (9-5-1, 5-0-1 BSC) outshot the Lumberjacks (7-4-3, 3-1-2 BSC) 18-9 and put 10 shots on goal to NAU’s two.
“I thought we played very well,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus. “Playing here is always difficult. To start with, the team is very good. Then you’ve got the altitude and a field that is long and narrow, so there is not a lot of space.
“You really have to play well to get a result here, so I thought the girls did a fantastic job.”
In a matchup of two of the Big Sky’s top keepers, Montana sophomore Kailey Norman and Northern Arizona sophomore Natalie Gilbertson both picked up shutouts. For Gilbertson, who made 10 saves, it was her league-leading eighth shutout of the season. Norman is right behind with seven.
Montana, with junior Mackenzie Akins, redshirt sophomore Savannah Witt and freshman Hallie Widner, a trio that took nine of the Grizzlies’ 18 shots, tested Gilbertson early and often.
Norman did not need to make her first save until the 78th minute.
“I thought our back line really kept them in check. They did not have many opportunities,” said Plakorus. “Kailey made a great save when she had to, and that can be hard to do when the most you’ve been doing is picking balls up.”
Senior Brooke Moody and redshirt sophomore Tess Brenneman both played all 110 minutes at center back, and freshman Ashlee Pedersen, a defender, got her first start at defensive midfielder in place of injured redshirt freshman Jamie Simon, who still played 52 minutes off the bench.
“I was very proud of the team and how they fought through some things tonight,” Plakorus said. “Ashlee played a whole new position for her, and we had great performances from a number of our players. Everybody we were able to use tonight did a good job.”
With the tie the Grizzlies remain atop the Big Sky standings by three points over Idaho and by five over Northern Arizona and Portland State.
On a day when Montana was held to one point in the standings, the Grizzlies’ closest pursuers were unable to take advantage. The five teams nearest to Montana in the standings all lost or tied Friday.
In other league matches, Sacramento State won 5-0 at North Dakota, Eastern Washington won 2-1 at Southern Utah, Weber State won 3-2 in double overtime at Idaho, and Portland State played to a 1-1 draw at Northern Colorado.
Montana will face Southern Utah (6-5-2, 3-2-1 BSC) Sunday at noon at Cedar City, Utah.