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As the most decorated female athlete at the London Olympics, 17-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin is one decision away from becoming a millionaire. With her haul of four gold medals and one bronze and her invaluable NBC face time in her portfolio, once The Missile declares her intention to go professional, the endorsements and the associated dollars -- estimated to be well into seven figures -- will be hers.
But even with a potential financial windfall awaiting her, Franklin is holding her ground. She is not ready to give up her dream of swimming in college. And doing so for Cal, Georgia or USC, three of the schools on Franklin's short list, would make her unable to collect, at least for the time being and at least financially, on her mushrooming popularity.
"I still believe that college is what's going to make me the happiest girl," Franklin said at a press conference in London.
Franklin could cash in on her fame tomorrow and still continue her education while training and competing as a professional, but NCAA rules would forbid her from swimming for her school. For Franklin, esprit de corps may ultimately lead her to decide team is more important than any amount of money (though it helps to know that the money -- and possibly more -- will likely still be there if she has a repeat performance at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016).
Montana sophomore soccer player Brooke Moody thinks she knows the root of Franklin's internal debate, because she's lived it: the Sisterhood.
Moody is a 2011 graduate of the all-girls Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo. Franklin will be a senior this coming year.
That means Moody and Franklin spent two years together at the 500-student school as part of the Sisterhood, the bond that connects the girls of the school. Even though she makes every attempt to explain it, the idea of the Sisterhood to the uninitiated leaves you thinking: part Godfather, part Dead Poets Society, part Skull and Bones and a touch of the Illuminati.
"The Sisterhood is really close. We did a lot of bonding things," Moody says, and leaves it at that.
Moody believes her former schoolmate is debating between the payoff of going professional and continuing to compete in a tightknit team environment because of the lessons learned while in the Sisterhood. Don't believe it? Here is what Franklin said recently in an interview:
"When I walked through the door at Regis Jesuit into Tradition Hall, I immediately knew I was home. Before anyone said one word to me, I knew I belonged in the Sisterhood. I felt peaceful, happy and safe."
How do you put a price tag on that? Moody believes it's the same feeling that Franklin wants to continue, which is why she is considering swimming in college instead of making the decision 99 percent of us would make. That's the lasting power of the Sisterhood.
"She is having a ton of money thrown at her, but she loves the team aspect of everything," Moody says. "I know she loves the idea of community and team, so it does not surprise me she is still considering college."
It's an interesting dilemma in Gordon Gekko's America, where "greed, for lack of a better word, is good." But can it overcome the Sisterhood?
If you read last week's article about Montana assistant soccer coach Lauren Robertson, who is fulfilling her dreams of professional soccer by playing this summer for the Colorado Rapids of the W-League, you'll remember that she and her teammates were scheduled to face the Seattle Sounders Monday night.
Alex Morgan, Hope Solo and the Sounders came away with a 3-0 victory over the travel-weary Rapids, who were playing their third game in four nights.
Colorado, which opened its season May 26 with a 3-0 win over Victoria, traveled to British Columbia late last week and tied Vancouver 1-1 Friday before once again defeating Victoria 1-0 on Sunday.
The Rapids' schedule likely played a role in the Sounders jumping out to a 2-0 lead before Monday's match was 10 minutes old.
Alex Morgan scored the opening goal in the third minute on a header against a defenseless Robertson. Just minutes later Morgan, a star on the U.S. national team, drove the ball to the end line and passed the ball across the box to Lyndsey Patterson who scored inside the far post.
National team veteran Stephanie Cox scored the match's final goal in the 87th minute off a free kick a few yards outside the penalty box.
"Lauren actually looked great," said Montana soccer coach Mark Plakorus, who watched a live online feed of the game. "When you're playing against Alex Morgan up front, your defense better be pretty darn good, but the defensive line in front of Lauren made some mistakes.
"The two goals that were scored in the first half, there was nothing Lauren could have done about them. Those would have scored against any goalkeeper."
The Sounders peppered Robertson with 26 shots. Eight were on goal. She made five saves and allowed the three goals while playing all 90 minutes. She had only given up one goal in 270 minutes entering the match.
The Rapids generated just two shots. Hope Solo, another recognizable name from the national team, needed to make just one save to earn the shutout victory.
"It was frustrating," Robertson said. "We are certainly not happy with the result. It was not indicative of how we've been playing or how good we are."
The match was played in front of a good-sized crowd at the Starfire Sports Complex Stadium in Tukwila, Wash.
"(Despite the outcome) it was still a great experience in an incredible environment," Robertson said. "It's a great venue that has a real professional feel to it, and they have a great fan base."
With four of their 14 league games completed, the Rapids (2-1-1) are in fourth place in the W-League's Western Division. Seattle and the Pali (Calif.) Blues sit atop the standings at 4-0-0. The two heavyweights have outscored their opponents this season 15-2.
Colorado hosts Pali in its next match. The Rapids and Blues will meet Friday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.
A pair of Big Sky Conference soccer matches was played Thursday, and both turned out in Montana's favor as the Grizzlies had their final practice before Friday's important matchup against Northern Arizona at South Campus Stadium at 3 p.m.
Portland State scored in the 12th minute and kept Weber State without a goal in the Vikings' 1-0 victory at Portland.
Later Thursday afternoon, Idaho State got a goal with nine seconds remaining in regulation to even its match at Sacramento State, 2-2. The Bengals scored the game-winner 9:01 into the first overtime for a 3-2 victory.
Montana hosts Northern Arizona Friday afternoon, and Northern Colorado plays at Eastern Washington. Those results will set the stage for Sunday afternoon, when all eight teams play their final league games.
No teams have been eliminated from tournament contention at this point and five teams could still earn hosting rights for the four-team tournament, which will be held the first weekend of November.
11 points ... Portland State (3-1-2 BSC, 7-7-2)
10 ... Northern Colorado (3-1-1 BSC, 6-7-3)
10 ... Weber State (3-2-1 BSC, 5-10-1)
8 ... Sacramento State (2-2-2 BSC, 6-8-2)
7 ... Montana (2-2-1 BSC, 5-9-2)
6 ... Idaho State (2-4-0 BSC, 5-10-1)
6 ... Northern Arizona (1-1-3 BSC, 2-8-7)
3 ... Eastern Washington (1-4-0 BSC, 2-11-0)
at PSU 1, WSU 0
ISU 3, at SAC 2 (ot)
NAU at UM, UNC at EWU
UM at UNC, EWU at NAU, SAC at WSU, PSU at ISU
The Montana soccer team opened the season with two wins last weekend at the Soccer Etc./Nike Classic in Boise, Idaho. The Grizzlies knocked off host Boise State 4-3 in double overtime Friday, then beat Wyoming 2-1 Sunday.
It was Montana's first 2-0 start to a season since 2004, and the wins become even more impressive when you see that the Big Sky Conference soccer teams went a combined 3-11 last weekend to open the season.
Idaho State, with a 2-0 victory at Southern Utah Friday, was the only other league team picking up a victory.
Northern Arizona and Sacramento State, the Big Sky's preseason favorites, went 0-4. The Lumberjacks lost at Arizona State Friday, 7-0, then lost at Southern Utah Sunday, 3-1.
The Hornets lost at home to Seattle University, 2-1 in overtime Friday, and 3-0 at Long Beach State Sunday.
Northern Colorado received a first-place vote in the preseason coaches poll, and the Bears also started 0-2, with a 2-1 loss at Denver Friday in double overtime and a 3-0 loss at Colorado Sunday.
It is only one weekend of play and still too early to be making sweeping generalizations, but it's nice to be writing about the Montana soccer team as the team setting the early pace.
The Grizzlies are off this weekend, then face Boise State and Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, Sept. 2 and 4.
An update on former Montana soccer coach Neil Sedgwick: He moved in April to Victoria, B.C., and is an assistant coach for the Victoria Highlanders and the organization's academy director.
The Victoria Highlanders are one of 67 teams in the United Soccer League's Premier Development League. The PDL is the stepping stone for North America's professional soccer leagues.
The Highlanders have a May-to-July schedule and use Canadian and U.S. collegiate players who can compete during the summer months and still maintain their collegiate eligibility.
Sedgwick's year-round job is the director of the new Victoria Highlanders Academy. Sedgwick and his staff of three coaches provide additional training opportunities for U9 to U16 club players in the Victoria/Vancouver area.
If Montana soccer coach Mark Plakorus isn't sporting a Griz hat these days to cover his shaved head, it's likely a 2011 Dallas Mavericks NBA championship cap. He has one not because of his allegiance to the Mavericks but because of his connection with Tim Grgurich, a long-time NBA assistant coach who worked with Dallas during its championship season.
Grgurich's daughter, Jennifer, is the wife of TCU women's soccer coach Dan Abdalla. Plakorus was Abdalla's assistant with the Horned Frogs for six seasons before getting the Montana job last winter.
"Over the years working with Dan at TCU, I've been fortunate to spend time with Coach Gurgs. He's just a great guy and enjoyable to talk with and be around. We have a good friendship."
Plakorus was in San Diego last weekend for the Surf Cup club tournament, one of the most important recruiting stops of the year. He met up with Abdalla, who was also recruiting, and the TCU coach had a surprise for Plakorus.
"When I saw Dan, he gave me an NBA championship hat that Coach Gurgs wanted to make sure I had. That was pretty neat."
Part of the connection between Plakorus and the Mavericks' championship was the "Go Mavs" text message he sent to Jennifer and Grgurich before every game of the NBA Finals between Dallas and Miami.
He sent four good-luck text messages during the six-game series, which the Mavericks won 4-2. The two he missed? Game one: Miami 92, Dallas 84, and game two: Miami 88, Dallas 86.
The long winter of no-sports restlessness comes to a close next week when the Montana soccer team reports to campus.
The Grizzlies, under first-year coach Mark Plakorus, go through the usual administrative steps Tuesday (physicals, issuing of practice gear, meetings with academic and compliance personnel, photos), then get after it for the first time at 8 a.m. Wednesday at South Campus Stadium.
The team will practice at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. most days.
Montana will host Carroll Saturday, Aug. 13, at 1 p.m. at SCS in an exhibition match, then open the regular season Friday, Aug. 19, at Boise State.
Look for a lot of Griz soccer coverage on the website beginning the middle of next week.
Also, good luck to incoming freshman Brooke Moody of Parker, Colo. Moody and her teammates on the Colorado Rush play for the U18 national championship Sunday in Phoenix.
She will travel home after the match, then travel to Missoula Monday for the start of her Griz career Tuesday.
The 2011 volleyball schedule is complete. The Grizzlies will play tournaments at Temple and North Dakota, then host a four-team tournament Friday and Saturday, Sept. 9-10, before opening their 16-match Big Sky Conference schedule.
The four-team Temple tournament will be played Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26-27, at Philadelphia, with the Grizzlies and Owls being joined by Stony Brook and South Carolina.
The team will travel out a day early, on Wednesday, Aug. 24, and use Thursday as an opportunity to experience all that Philadelphia has to offer. Well, almost all. The Phillies have a six-game homestand that week, but after hosting the Mets Monday through Wednesday, they are off Thursday before hosting the Marlins Friday through Sunday. Unfortunate scheduling.
The North Dakota tournament, to be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 2-3, in Grand Forks will be a Big Sky Conference preview for 2012, with Montana facing future Big Sky members North Dakota and Southern Utah. Wisconsin-Green Bay will be the fourth team competing.
Montana's tournament will be played Friday and Saturday, Sept. 9-10, with Cal State Fullerton, Idaho and South Dakota traveling to Missoula.
There will be four matches played on Friday, then two more matches later on Saturday after the Montana football team's home opener against Cal Poly.
Montana's Big Sky Conference schedule opens Thursday, Sept. 15, with a match at Northern Colorado.
The four-team Big Sky tournament will be played the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, as it was last November.
After two months of offseason training and a few competitions, the Montana soccer team will get two days of quality opponents this weekend at Boise, Idaho.
The Grizzlies will face Utah State at 9:45 a.m. and Idaho State at 2:45 p.m. Saturday at BSU's Boas Soccer Complex. Montana will face the host Broncos Sunday at 11 a.m.
Montana will play an alumni team Saturday, April 23, at 1 p.m. at South Campus Stadium. That event is free and open to the public.
The Montana soccer team played two matches Saturday at the Blue
Mountain Exchange, a youth and collegiate tournament in Richland, Wash.
It was the first of four allowable dates of competition for the team
during its offseason.
The Grizzlies will face Carroll later this month, then travel
to Boise in April for matches against Idaho State, Utah State and Boise
State over two days.
The team was shorthanded - first-year coach Mark Plakorus only
had a handful of players on the bench while his 11 were competing - but
he liked the progress he saw from the team, both in how it's bought
into his style the first two weeks of offseason training and how it
made strides within the two matches Saturday.
"The first spring game is always a challenge, because it's the
first time you're in a competitive environment again (since the fall),"
"Then we had the added challenge of the girls being on the
field with me for the first time and getting used to hearing my voice
and learning my expectations.
"I thought we competed well. The things we'd been working on in
the week and a half that we'd been together, they were trying to
implement, which was good to see.
"And I thought from the beginning of the first game to the end
of the second game we continued to get better, so I was pretty pleased
Between now and the Carroll match later this month, the goal will be improving fitness levels, both physical and mental.
"Our No. 1 priority will be to get our fitness level to a point
where the girls can execute skills and not get mentally or physically
fatigued - to be able to play the whole time," Plakorus said.
"And I want to continue to build on the defensive things we've
been working on and give the girls a better idea of how we're going to
function as a team on that side of the ball."