Griz offense comes to life in 3-1 victory
Sept. 9, 2013
When sophomore Mackenzie Akins found junior Tyler Adair in the 21st minute of Montana's 3-1 victory over Utah Valley Monday evening at South Campus Stadium, it did more than just open the match's scoring. It unleashed a long-awaited offensive deluge for the Grizzlies.
With Montana, which had scored just three goals through its first five matches, on the verge of becoming a team with a defense-first reputation, the Grizzlies took a season-high 19 shots and doubled their scoring output for the season.
And maybe most important was the timing of their first. When Akins found Adair in the 21st minute, the pair's second scoring connection in two matches, it gave Montana its first first-half goal of the season.
"We were in an attacking mindset today, and that helped us," said Akins, who had a role in all three scores Monday, with a pair of assists and her first goal of the season. "We've been playing so defensively lately that it was really nice to keep attacking, and that's a nice mindset to be in."
Up 1-0 to start the second half and with Utah Valley pressing toward goal, plenty of space opened up for Montana in the middle of the field and in the attacking third, and that plays right into the strengths of Akins and senior India Watne, who combined for a dozen shots on UVU's worn-out keepers.
Watne scored her first goal of the season and her first since 2011 when she took a lead pass that led to a through ball from Akins in the 71st minute, and Akins was on the receiving end when she took a pass from senior defender Maddey Frey in the 80th minute and scored inside left post from 15 yards out.
And that was plenty for a team that had allowed only seven goals in its previous 13 matches entering play on Monday.
"I think we're a very good defensive team, and the teams we play know that," said UM coach Mark Plakorus. "So when they fall behind, they have to start coming out a little more, and that opens up the game for us on the attack. When we have space, that's when we're at our best."
Utah Valley scored in the 84th minute when Haley Curtis got behind Griz senior goalkeeper Kendra McMillen to tally her third goal of the year. But that was all the Wolverines would get as Montana extended its unbeaten streak at home to a program-record 11 matches (6-0-5).
Lost in the excitement of Montana's first two-match winning streak of the season is that the Grizzlies have done it done it with some of their primary weapons on the bench because of injury.
No Mary Makris. No Ashley Tombelaine. No Alyssa Nystrom. All seniors. And those are the injured players who have at least gotten on the field for a few matches this season. The hapless Simon sisters never made it even that far.
Of course it would be easy to point to Akins, who had three assists and a goal as the Grizzlies scored four times in their sweep of Houston Baptist and Utah Valley at the Montana Cup, and to Watne and say they've stepped up their games. But Akins is quick to deflect any praise directed her way.
"Losing a lot of key players has been hard, but we responded by coming together as a team," she said. "We decided to get a new attitude and start playing to the strengths that we still have. We pushed through the adversity and put together two good games."
Plakorus adds, "It's them kind of looking at themselves and realizing that we're a pretty darn good team with the players that we have. If we just stick to the little things that we focus on every day and enjoy playing with each other, everything else just kind of happens, and that's what you saw today."
Montana will play its final pre-Big Sky Conference road matches when the Grizzlies play at Nebraska-Omaha on Friday and Creighton on Sunday.
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