MISSOULA, Mont. – In a back-and-forth contest between two evenly matched teams, Montana took advantage of a late opportunity on Friday afternoon, beating Sacramento State, 1-0, at South Campus Stadium. Both teams played strong offensively, combining for 33 shots. But both defenses were also on their game, totaling 10 saves and six blocks. It wasn't until the 83rd minute when Alexa Coyle scored an open-look goal, set up by multiple teammates, to lift the Grizzlies to a big win.
"I was really proud of the team today because I thought they had the right frame of mind," head coach Mark Plakorus said. "They played hard, they played smart and they played together. The biggest thing today was our team effort."
The team effort was best exemplified on Coyle's goal, a play that began as a free kick and eventually touched seven different Griz players.
Chanelle Pederson took the free kick, which was headed by Ashlee Pedersen and eventually corralled in the opposite corner by Dani Morris. Morris passed it up to Taylor Hansen, who passed it to the middle and back to Raye Burton. Burton one-timed it and floated the ball up, which pulled Sacramento State's goalkeeper out of the box.
With the ball still loose, Pedersen did a great job fending off the goalkeeper and crossing the ball back to Coyle, who only had to control the ball in front of an open net.
"I thought we played with a lot of composure today," Plakorus said. "I thought we moved the ball pretty well and used the entire field. That's how attacking is supposed to be. You need an individual person making an individual play within a team concept."
The goal was Coyle's team-high third of the season. She also leads the team for points (8) and shots on goal (10).
Sacramento State entered the game ahead of Montana in the standings, earning a win over North Dakota and ties against preseason favorites Eastern Washington and Idaho.
"That's a very good team. It was a good result against a very good team."
The Grizzlies got off 16 shots and several strong looks, but wouldn't be in the position to win without the play of their defense. Claire Howard faced 17 shots in net, saving all four shots on goal. The Griz defense also blocked six shot attempts and defended five corner kicks.
One of Howard's biggest saves came in the 68th minute, when she came out of the net on a breakaway, making herself big and not giving the forward an opportunity to get an open look. She saved a free kick one minute later, and also had a save on a steal deep in Montana territory and secured another after it hit off the crossbar.
"They're very good in the final third, especially in their final pass, and we dealt with it very well," Plakorus said of the Hornets' offense. "We defended them very well."
Montana had seven shots on goal to Sacramento State's four. Burton, Coyle and McKenzie Warrenhad two apiece.
The Griz got off to a hot start – something the team has been working on in recent weeks. Montana took six shots – four on goal – in the first 19 minutes. Burton, Howard, Taryn Miller, Pederson and Raquel Watts played all 90 minutes. Watts had two of Montana's blocks.
Montana will look to carry Friday's momentum forward to Sunday afternoon, when the Grizzlies host league-leader Northern Arizona. Montana is unbeaten at home this season, improving to 4-0-1. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. and is the team's annual pink game, in honor of breast-cancer-prevention awareness. Fans wearing pink get in for half price.