Kate Wilkins will be one of five seniors recognized Sunday
Oct. 3, 2012
The Montana soccer team will play its final regular-season home matches this week when it hosts Northern Colorado and North Dakota. The Grizzlies will face the Bears Friday at 3 p.m. at South Campus Stadium and UND on Sunday at 11 a.m.
Where they stand: With two of five weekends of Big Sky Conference matches in the books, Montana (5-6-2, 1-2-1 BSC) sits in a tie for seventh place with four points. ... Northern Colorado (5-4-2, 3-0-0 BSC) is tied with Portland State (5-6-1, 3-1-0 BSC) atop the standings with nine points, but the Bears have played just three league matches to the Vikings' four. ... North Dakota (2-7-1, 0-3-0 BSC) is tied with Southern Utah (1-7-1, 0-3-0 BSC) at the bottom of the standings.
"These are going to be two very exciting games for us and at the same time two very challenging opponents as well, as conference games always are," second-year coach Mark Plakorus said. "Both teams will present us with unique problems that we'll have to face.
"We're excited to get after it this week in training and in our preparation. We're going to give it everything we have this weekend, and hopefully we'll come out on top."
Sunday to double as Senior Day: The soccer program will recognize its five seniors who will be playing their final regular-season home match Sunday shortly before Montana and North Dakota face off.
Forward Erin Craig, midfielder Lauren McCreath, defenders Lauran Costa and Kate Wilkins and goalkeeper Kristen Hoon are all regular starters in 2012. Craig, McCreath, Wilkins and Hoon are all fifth-year seniors who joined the program in 2008. Costa is the sole member of the class of 2009 to conclude her career in four years.
Check GoGriz.com Friday for a more in-depth look at this year's seniors and the journey they took to get to Sunday.
Like 2011 all over again: Montana was a similar 1-2-1 through four Big Sky matches last season. The Grizzlies responded by beating Idaho State on the road and Northern Arizona at home in their next two matches to get to 10 points. Montana made the Big Sky tournament by a point despite losing at Northern Colorado in its seventh and final league match.
The difference this season is Montana has five league matches remaining to creep back up among the Big Sky leaders.
Though the league expanded by two teams this season, the Big Sky tournament did not. The top four teams when the dust settles on Sunday, Oct. 21, will play into November.
Will Friday include an element of revenge? Northern Colorado tied with Portland State for the 2011 regular-season championship and hosted the postseason tournament. One weekend after handing Montana a sound 2-0 defeat on the same Jackson Field turf to conclude the regular season, Northern Colorado was upset by the No. 4 Grizzlies in the tournament semifinals.
The teams played to a 1-1 double-overtime draw, and Montana pulled out a 3-2 win in a shootout to end UNC's season. The Grizzlies celebrated a tournament championship two days later on Jackson Field with a shootout victory over No. 3 Weber State and advanced to face Stanford in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Around the Big Sky Conference: While Montana was going pointless last weekend with 2-0 losses at both Portland State and Sacramento State, a handful of teams took advantage of the available points and made a move up the standings.
Portland State, the Big Sky preseason favorite which lost at Northern Colorado, 1-0, in both teams' league opener, moved into a tie for first by beating Montana and Eastern Washington (4-6-2, 1-2-1 BSC) by a combined score of 6-0.
Idaho State (7-4-1, 2-1-1 BSC) also moved up the standings into a tie for third with Sacramento State (4-5-3, 2-1-1 BSC) with a pair of home victories over Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, both by 2-1 scores. ISU downed the Thunderbirds in regulation with the game-winning goal coming at 89:58.
Northern Colorado, fifth-place Northern Arizona (4-6-2, 2-1-0 BSC), North Dakota and Southern Utah have all played just three league matches. The other six teams have played four.
Montana will have its single-match week next week when the Grizzlies play at Eastern Washington next Friday afternoon.
This week's schedule
Friday: Northern Colorado at Montana, North Dakota at Eastern Washington, Sacramento State at Southern Utah, Portland State at Northern Arizona
Saturday: Idaho State at Weber State
Sunday: North Dakota at Montana, Northern Colorado at Eastern Washington, Portland State at Southern Utah, Sacramento State at Northern Arizona
Last weekend: Montana had a chance to have a statement road trip but came away with 2-0 losses at both Portland State and Sacramento State. On Friday at PSU, the Vikings had an 18-9 shots advantage and got goals in the 27th and 50th minutes. On Sunday at SAC, the Hornets broke up an evenly played, tight match with a goal in the 80th minute, then added the insurance goal less than 90 seconds later.
Northern Colorado and North Dakota are both coming off their single-match week, in which they played one another last Friday at Greeley, Colo. The Bears put five shots on goal compared to UND's four, but UNC scored on three of those five shots on goal, in the 25th, 63rd and 88th minutes.
More on Northern Colorado: The Bears lost the 2011 Big Sky Goalkeeper of the Year in Kirstin Salminen and Defensive MVP Aundreaha Martinez to graduation, plus another first-team All-Big Sky selection in forward Ariel Cook, but UNC, which was picked second in the preseason coaches' poll behind Portland State (despite picking up more first-place votes than the Vikings), has not taken a step back.
Northern Colorado has won its first three Big Sky matches, all played at home, in shutouts. The Bears opened with a 1-0 victory over Portland State in a match that might have important tiebreaker implications down the road and a 2-0 win over Sacramento State before downing North Dakota last weekend, 3-0.
UNC lost at home in early September to Wyoming, 2-0, the same Cowgirls team Montana beat on the road by the same score to open the season. The Bears showed they were ready for Big Sky play when they played to a 1-1 draw at Nebraska in their final match before league opened.
Any scouting report on the Bears would be hard to produce. UNC has had 10 different players score its 13 goals this season. No one has put in more than two goals.
Natalie D'Adamio has filled Salminen's shoes very well this season. The senior keeper, a transfer from Minnesota State-Mankato, has played every minute in goal and has helped the Bears to a 1.05 goals against average, second-best in the Big Sky.
Series history: Montana and Northern Colorado have played every season dating back to 2006. The Grizzlies trail in the series 2-3-2. ... The teams have played to a 1-1-1 record in their three previous meetings in Missoula. ... The last meeting at South Campus Stadium was a 0-0 draw in a match UNC held an 18-10 advantage in shots.
More on North Dakota: UND tied for ninth (last) in the preseason coaches' poll with Southern Utah and looked it in opening the season with a trip to Iowa that resulted in losses to Northern Iowa and Iowa by a combined score of 8-0.
North Dakota rebounded with 11 goals in its next three matches, going 2-0-1, but UND is now on a five-match losing streak, with just two goals scored in those matches.
Prior to losing at Northern Colorado last weekend, North Dakota dropped a pair of league matches at home to Sacramento State, 1-0, and Portland State, 3-1.
Series history: Montana and North Dakota have met on four previous occasions. Sunday will be the first as Big Sky Conference opponents. ... In the first three meetings, Montana went 3-0 against UND by a combined score of 9-2. ... Last year at Grand Forks, North Dakota came away with a 2-1 victory for its first win in the series. Paytyn Wheeler scored in the 29th minute, but UND answered in the 41st and scored the game-winner on a penalty kick in the 71st.
More on Montana: The Grizzlies have out-shot their opponents this season 180-146, but those opponents have scored 16 goals to UM's 10. ... Despite an overall advantage in shots, Montana has been out-shot this season in the first half by 10. ... The Grizzlies' 0.77 scoring average ranks 291st in the nation out of 321 teams. Jackson State is last with one goal in 10 matches. ... Montana ranks first in the Big Sky in corner kicks (5.31/g) and shutouts (five) and third in shots (13.85/g). ... Erin Craig has taken a Big Sky-leading 42 shots this season. She is tied for third in the league with four goals, but has not scored the last six matches. ... Kristen Hoon's five shutouts still lead the Big Sky.
Upcoming: Montana will have its one single-match Big Sky week next week when the Grizzlies play at Eastern Washington next Friday afternoon at Cheney, Wash.
Montana will conclude its Big Sky schedule the following week with matches at Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.
The regular season will wrap up with a non-conference match at Utah Valley on Oct. 26. That match will be either Montana's final match of 2012 or a warm-up for the Big Sky tournament, which will be held the first weekend of November at the home of the regular-season champion.
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