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Montana rallies, stuns Purdue

Published: August 21, 2016

The Montana soccer team rallied for a 2-1 overtime victory over Purdue Sunday afternoon at Folk Field in West Lafayette, Ind., its second victory over an opponent from the Big Ten in two seasons.


After spotting the Boilermakers (1-1-0) a goal in the sixth minute, the Grizzlies (2-0-0) came back with goals from Hallie Widner in the 84th minute to tie it and McKenzie Warren just 1:23 into the first overtime to win it.


It was the first victory for Montana after trailing in a true road match since 2011. That was also the last time the Grizzlies opened a season 2-0.


“I couldn’t be more proud of my team, in how they prepared and the focus and intensity they had coming into this one. I could tell we were going to play well, and we did,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus, whose team lost 3-1 to Purdue last fall.


“Everything you talk about wanting your team to do, we did today. I’m proud of them. This is a hard place to come and get a victory. Purdue is a really good team that tested us in every aspect of the game.”


In the teams’ match last September at South Campus Stadium in Missoula, the Boilermakers also opened the scoring in the sixth minute. They would go on to score two more first-half goals to effectively decide the match before the teams had even gone to their locker rooms for halftime.


Even though Hannah Leinert took a through-ball from Gabby LaMere and beat Montana goalkeeper Kailey Norman on a breakaway just 5:32 into the match, Sunday proved to be a different story.


“I didn’t worry too much about it,” said Plakorus. “We had settled into the game and were moving the ball pretty well. They just caught us on something that is going to happen early in the year, when your back line isn’t used to that type of speed coming at them on the counterattack.


“I’m really proud that the girls did not hang their heads. They just kept battling and started creating opportunities for themselves. I just felt like a goal was going to come.”


Plakorus had to wait through the first half and through the opening minutes of the second half, when Purdue controlled play and created a number of dangerous looks. Norman made three saves in 16 tense minutes to keep it a one-goal game.


“We weathered a storm early in the second half. They came out really strong, but Kailey kept us in it,” said Plakorus. Norman would make five saves for the match and keep the Boilermakers off the scoreboard the final 86 minutes for her 23rd career win.


“The goal we gave up, we kind of left her out to dry on a through-ball. But Kailey has a short memory when it comes to that kind of stuff. She kept playing and was fantastic for us today.”


It took until the 84th minute before Montana would even the score. The game-winning goal started with a throw-in from Mary Gintz, an outside back who collected her sixth assist since the start of last season.


One of her teammates flicked the ball toward goal, and there was Widner, all 5-foot-5 of her, who out-jumped everyone and headed it past Purdue’s goalkeeper from five yards out.


It wasn’t all Montana from that point. In fact Plakorus had his heart in his throat in the final minute of regulation, when Breana Robbins sent a shot just right of goal.


“I was thinking, Wow, this might be it,” said Plakorus. “But she pushed it wide, and that gave us another chance in overtime. Thankfully we didn’t have to go too long.”


The game-winner, which had touches from four different players in a span of 12 seconds, started when Chanelle Pederson, who scored the game-winner in Friday’s 2-0 victory over Oakland, played the ball up the left side to Ellie Otteson.


Otteson cut toward the middle of the field and passed to Widner. The heady, collected midfielder, who knew there was a defender glued to her back, heel-flicked the ball to Warren, who had a clear look at the goal from just inside the top of the 18-yard box.


The Big 10 strangler -- Warren’s goal in the 73rd minute, the only other goal of her career, gave Montana a 1-0 victory over Iowa last season -- couldn’t have placed it any better: upper left corner. The diving keeper had no chance.


“The goal was just fantastic. A really good buildup, with great decisions and a good finish by Kenzie,” said Plakorus.


“We just kept believing throughout the match that a goal was going to come. Then you get the tying goal and you want to get the win.”


Montana will be back on the road again next weekend, facing Wyoming (1-0-0) on Friday and Denver (0-2-0) on Sunday.

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