The Griz soccer team put together a good match this weekend at the Montana Cup at South Campus Stadium in Missoula. Unfortunately it came in the second half on Friday and first half on Sunday, and that inconsistent performance led to the Grizzlies getting swept on their home field.
A slow start Friday cost Montana in a 3-1 loss to Purdue, and a quiet second half on Sunday resulted in a 1-0 loss to Creighton (5-3-0). The two setbacks drop Montana (3-4-1) below .500 for the first time this season.
“Our consistency is something we have to keep working on,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus. “It’s not anything we don’t know how to do. I’ve just got to do more to help the players realize their potential and play to it more often.”
After falling behind Purdue 3-0 at the half on Friday, the Grizzlies outplayed the Boilermakers over the final 45 minutes. Montana carried that effort into the start of Sunday’s match and made it a one-sided affair through the first 30 minutes.
But for all the possession Montana had between the midfield and Creighton’s 18-yard box in the early going, little of it led to dangerous opportunities.
“I thought early on our energy was great. I thought our effort was great, I thought we were moving the ball well. But we were attacking them in the wrong space,” Plakorus said.
“We kept trying to shove the ball down the middle, which makes it difficult with the way they play and makes it difficult to get really good looks. We weren’t able to get quality looks for how well we were playing.”
It was a lost chance for Montana, which got outplayed the entirety of the second half. Creighton had a 12-4 shots advantage in the second frame and took 17 of the match’s final 23 shots.
“As the game went on, I thought we lost our willingness to sacrifice and battle for balls, and we became very reactionary,” said Plakorus. “They started to get excited about things and started coming at us hard, and we started to get tentative, and that’s not a good combination.”
Creighton finally broke through and scored what would be the game-winner in the 53rd minute. Jill Richgels played a corner kick into Ylenia Sachau, and after the junior midfielder settled the ball on the right side, she scored inside the far post.
Montana had opportunities in the second half -- Payton Agnew’s header in the 68th minute went directly to Creighton goalkeeper Erin Scott, and Ashlee Pedersen’s open look on the right side in the 79th minute was sent high -- but Grizzlies were for the most part nonthreatening.
The team’s last best chance summed it up. In the final minute of regulation, Montana was awarded a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. With a chance to strike and send the match into overtime, the kick was sent directly into the Creighton wall. The Bluejays took it the other way and ran out the clock.
The shutout means Montana has scored just two goals over its last four matches, all of which have been at home. The Grizzlies generated only four corner kicks in those matches.
“We have to be confident in who we are and keep battling and stay with our game plan,” said Plakorus. “We have to trust things and keep doing the things we know how to do.
“And we’ve got to be willing to take chances and take more risks in the attacking end. We’re just not doing enough of that right now.”
Mackenzie Akins took three of Montana’s nine shots. Nobody else took more than a single shot. Scott played all 90 minutes in goal for Creighton to pick up her fifth win and fourth shutout of the year.
Montana will play its final pre-Big Sky Conference match Friday evening at UC Santa Barbara against a team that is rolling. The Gauchos (4-2-1) are unbeaten in their last five. That includes a 2-0 home-field victory over Texas, which two days later won at No. 8 UCLA.