Griz travel to Texas for TCU Invitational
Aug. 23, 2012
The Montana soccer team will be in Fort Worth, Texas, this weekend for the four-team TCU Invitational. The Grizzlies will face the host Horned Frogs Friday at 6:30 p.m. (MT) and Texas Tech Sunday at 10 a.m. (MT). Stephen F. Austin is the tournament's fourth team.
Openers: Montana is 1-1-0 after opening the season on the road last week with matches at Wyoming and Air Force. The Grizzlies shut out the Cowgirls, 2-0, last Friday and fell to the Falcons, 1-0, on Sunday on a goal in the 80th minute. ... The win Friday was the first time in program history Montana has opened its season with a shutout on the road. ... TCU played just once last week but had an impressive result. The Horned Frogs went on the road to New Mexico -- an NCAA tournament team last season and this season's Mountain West Conference preseason favorite -- and came away with a 1-1 draw. The two teams met on the same field as Mountain West rivals last October, and the Lobos won 7-1. ... TCU will be playing its first season in the Big 12 this fall. ... Texas Tech is 2-0-0 after opening the season with a pair of home victories last weekend against Idaho, 2-1, and New Mexico, 2-0. ... Texas Tech, with one first-place vote, was picked fifth out of nine teams in the preseason Big 12 coaches' poll. TCU was picked ninth. ... Friday night's Montana-TCU match will be played under the lights of Garvey-Rosenthal Stadium. ... This weekend's meetings against TCU and Texas Tech will be the first against those programs for Montana.
"This is definitely going to be a step up from what we faced last weekend," UM coach Mark Plakorus said. "It's going to be fun, but it's going to be a challenge.
"It's going to be another great opportunity to see where we're at and how far we've come as a program. Can we be better than we were last weekend? And how far have we improved in this week of training?"
If you aren't traveling: You can watch Friday's match against TCU for a small fee through Frog Vision or follow it free of charge through GameTracker. Both services can be accessed from the soccer schedule page at GoFrogs.com. Sunday's match will have GameTracker only.
Fishing trip comes up empty: Second-year Montana coach Mark Plakorus was hired in January 2011 after spending six years as an assistant and associate head coaching at TCU. He was asked this week about returning to Fort Worth to face a team still largely made up of players he recruited to TCU. Despite being baited into a possible bulletin-board answer, Plakorus kept things benign.
"Friday's game doesn't mean anything more to me than any other team on our schedule that we have to prepare to play," he said.
"Facing players you have a history with happens in the college game. I wish them all the best with their careers at TCU, but my only concern is my team and my players and making sure we're ready to perform at the highest level we can."
New staff at TCU: Plakorus spent six seasons (2005-10) at TCU coaching under Dan Abdalla. Abdalla resigned last November after his first season without Plakorus on staff. TCU wasted little time in recruiting former Florida State associate head coach Eric Bell to take over the program.
The Seminoles went 106-31-13 in the six years Bell was on staff at FSU and advanced to the 2007 national championship game.
Red Raiders, tournament heavyweight: Texas Tech has never been to the NCAA tournament, but sixth-year coach Tom Stone is on his way to changing that. His team went 10-8-5 last season and returns 19 letterwinners.
Two things to know about the Red Raiders: They get after you early -- they outscored their 19 opponents last season in the first half 13-4 -- and you should feel good about yourself if you find the back of the net even once -- they gave up just 17 goals in 2011 and posted shutouts in 10 of their 19 matches, including a stretch of seven straight.
Junior goalkeeper Victoria Esson, a four-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, is back and played all 180 minutes in last week's season-opening victories.
"Texas Tech is a very athletic team and a very well-coached team," Plakorus said. "Tom has done a fantastic job bringing that program to the level they are.
"They are very unique in their style and system of play. It's going to be a challenge for us to really be organized and handle a team that is going to come after us."
Another week, another environmental challenge: Last week it was facing Wyoming at an altitude of 7,165 feet and Air Force at 7,258. This weekend it will be playing matches in northeast Texas in late August.
Friday's projected game-time temperature should be in the upper 80s after a daytime high of 93. Sunday is expected to reach 95 after an overnight low of just 75. (Note: Montana's players awoke in Missoula Thursday morning to an overnight low of 41 degrees.)
"It's Texas in late summer, so it's going to be warm," Plakorus said. "Our schedule is not just about the challenges of the teams we play. It's also about the challenges of the environments we go into.
"What I want to find out is, can we block those things out and be mentally strong, so that no matter what's going on around us we're focused on our performance?"
Weekend recap: Montana won its season opener for the second time under second-year coach Mark Plakorus last Friday with a 2-0 victory at Wyoming. Senior Ashley Tombelaine scored in the 16th minute off an assist from junior India Watne, and senior Erin Craig scored in the 55th minute off a free kick from senior Lauren Costa from near midfield.
Craig led Montana in scoring in 2011 with 10 goals. Watne led the Grizzlies in assists with eight.
Montana came up short of a road-trip sweep when Air Force scored the match's only goal in the 80th minute in the Falcons' 1-0 victory Sunday at the Academy.
Senior Kristen Hoon played all 180 minutes in goal and earned her first Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week award for her efforts. Her shutout of Wyoming was the fourth of her career.
"I thought we defended very well last weekend and we battled hard, but we did not move the ball as well as I was expecting us to," Plakorus said after watching his team take just 14 shots, eight on goal, in the two matches. "We weren't as dangerous as I thought we could be.
"We've been working this week on getting back to having a more dangerous attack and reminding ourselves that we need to get forward and put pressure on our opponents. We want that to be part of our identity."
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