The Montana soccer team played to a 0-0 draw against Northern Colorado on Sunday afternoon at South Campus Stadium, and though the result gave the Grizzlies a four-point weekend, it still leaves them on the tournament bubble with one day of regular-season matches remaining.
The Big Sky Conference schedule concludes on Friday. Three teams -- Idaho, Eastern Washington and Sacramento State -- have clinched spots in the six-team tournament, which will open on Wednesday, Nov. 2, in either Moscow, Idaho, or Cheney, Wash.
Montana is one of five teams that will go into Friday fighting for the other three spots. The Grizzlies, who could finish as high as second place or out of the postseason completely, wrap up their regular season at Eastern Washington. The teams will play at 3:30 p.m. (MT) in Cheney.
The Eagles, who won 6-1 at North Dakota on Sunday, could earn a share of the regular-season title and host the tournament with a win over Montana on Friday and an Idaho loss at home to Idaho State.
Though Montana continued its three-week stretch of quality soccer, the Northern Colorado match will go down like draws against Sacramento State and Northern Arizona, when the Grizzlies gave up leads in the final five minutes of regulation. A better result was there for the taking.
After outshooting North Dakota 26-3 in Friday’s 1-0 overtime win, Montana mostly controlled play again on Sunday, taking 19 shots to Northern Colorado’s 11, with seven on goal. The Bears put just two on goal, but Alyssa McGuire made seven saves to keep the Grizzlies off the scoreboard.
“We played great today. I thought from kickoff through the whole game we played some really great soccer,” said Plakorus.
“We gave ourselves more than enough opportunities. We just didn’t put it in today, but I couldn’t be more proud of this team for the way they competed and the way we played the game.”
The Bears (9-7-2, 4-4-1 BSC), one of the teams playing on Friday with a chance to make the tournament, had the more dangerous looks early in Sunday’s match.
In the 19th minute Sydney Schroeder got behind Montana’s back line and was tracking a through ball, but Montana goalkeeper Kailey Norman came 20 yards out of goal and made a sliding pickup to end the threat.
The rest of the match was about Montana’s near misses and the Grizzlies’ solid defensive work on Mariel Gutierrez, who entered the match with nine goals, and Schroeder and Brooke Braden, who both have four this season.
Gutierrez was held without a shot, while Schroeder and Braden were limited to a single shot on goal between them.
“We tried to make sure their key players didn’t get loose on us, and I don’t think they ever did,” said Plakorus. “I thought it was a full, complete game and that we controlled the match and limited them very well.
“It’s just unfortunate we didn’t get a goal when we felt like we should have.”
Montana’s best chances mostly came in the second half, starting in the 53rd minute when Hallie Widner found Charlene Burger eight yards out. Her shot was stopped right on the line by a diving McGuire.
“That was a brilliant save. I don’t know how she came up with that one,” said Plakorus.
Twelve minutes later McKenzie Warren put a shot off the crossbar, and in the 82nd minute, Ellie Otteson got the ball with the left third of the goal open. She sent her shot wide.
The teams combined for four mostly harmless shots in the overtime periods.
“To get the win and pick up two more points would have been nice, but I wouldn’t call anything about today disappointing,” said Plakorus. “When the team plays the way we played, I can’t be disappointed.
“Our standard, how we measure ourselves, is by how we play, not by results, and we played great today. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
Twelve different players took shots for Montana, which is undefeated in its last five matches (3-0-2), with four shutouts. Norman picked up her 24th career shutout, leaving her four behind Railene Thorson’s program record of 28.
In other league matches on Sunday, Northern Arizona won 1-0 at Idaho State, Idaho won 4-0 at home over Southern Utah, and Portland State won 1-0 at home over Weber State.