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No. 1 Stanford pulls away, ends Montana’s season

Published: November 12, 2011
The Montana soccer team’s magical postseason run came to a close Friday night with a 3-0 loss to No. 1 Stanford in the opening round of the 2011 NCAA Division I Soccer Championship. The Cardinal opened the scoring late in the first half, then scored a pair of second-half goals to extend its home winning streak at Cagan Stadium to 47 matches. Stanford (20-0-1), the national runner-up the last two seasons and favorite to win its first national title this season, advances to face South Carolina in next weekend’s second round. Montana’s season – which included its first Big Sky Conference tournament appearance since 2008 and first NCAA tournament since 2000 – ended with a record of 6-12-4. Despite facing what Montana coach Mark Plakorus earlier this week called “possibly the best college team ever put together,” the Grizzlies did not back down and took four of the match’s first nine shots. Junior Erin Craig sent a shot wide left in the 13th minute and juniors Ashley Tombelaine and Lauren McCreath combined for three shots in a five-minute stretch midway through the half. McCreath’s shot was on goal and forced Stanford keeper Emily Oliver to make what would end up being her only save of the match. “I thought we did a very good job sticking to our game plan and maybe frustrated them a little bit,” Plakorus said. Montana weathered Stanford’s first four corner kicks of the first half. The Cardinal broke through on its fifth. Lindsay Taylor, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, played the ball to the far post, and Mariah Nogueira headed in her third goal of the season in the 39th minute. Stanford had a 14-4 advantage in shots and 6-0 edge in corner kicks in the first half, but the lead was just 1-0 at the break. The second half would be more one-sided, both in shots and scoring opportunities. The Cardinal kept the pressure on early in the second half – creating a pair of corner kicks in the opening 12 minutes – and scored its second goal in the 59th minute. Her teammates played the ball through, and Taylor was fouled in the box by Montana freshman Brooke Moody. Taylor converted the ensuing penalty kick for her 18th goal of the season. Chioma Ubogagu, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, scored the match’s final goal in the 73rd minute when she took a cross from the left side and netted her ninth goal of the season. Stanford outshot Montana in the second half 15-1. “We got a couple of chances early, but as the game wore on, they just had horses we couldn’t match. We got tired and couldn’t keep up with them,” Plakorus said. The Cardinal put 13 of its 29 shots for the match on goal. The reason the final result was kept to a 3-0 margin was the play of junior keeper Kristen Hoon, who came up with a career-high 10 saves. “That was by far her best game of the year. She was just fantastic,” Plakorus said. “That’s why we frustrated them, because of the level Kristen played at.” Hoon and the defenders in front of her had to deal with 11 corner kicks and seven more shots than any other team took against Montana this season. “It was definitely a step up from what we’ve seen all season,” Hoon said. “It was a challenge for us to keep an eye on every player, but we stayed with them for the most part. “But when they went for it, it was pretty unstoppable.” Montana was outshot 29-5, but that was not far from Stanford’s averages for the season. And the Cardinal faced seven ranked teams during its 20 regular-season matches. Only seven of those teams scored a total of eight goals. “We just wanted to make it difficult for them, and I think we did,” Plakorus, who just completed his first season, said. “We made them work to get what they got. “It’s a fantastic experience to get to play the No. 1 team in the country on its home field. It can’t be anything but good.”
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