Griz get pre-tournament test at Utah Valley
Oct. 24, 2012
The Montana soccer team will play its final regular-season match Friday when it faces Utah Valley at Orem, Utah. The Grizzlies and Wolverines will play at 7 p.m. under the lights at UVU's Clyde Field.
Live coverage: Griz soccer fans not making the trip can monitor the action via live stats at WolverineGreen.com.
Beyond that: Montana will take the No. 3 seed into next week's four-team Big Sky Conference tournament. Utah Valley hosts Delaware State next Monday in a Great West Conference match, then hosts the six-team Great West tournament the following weekend.
Where they stand: Montana is 10-6-2 and on a five-match winning streak. The Grizzlies have won all five of those matches by shutout.
Utah Valley is 6-10-1 and has also won five straight. The Wolverines have posted shutouts in four of those five wins.
Conference champions squaring off: Montana's road wins last weekend at Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, both 1-0 decisions, allowed the Grizzlies to claim a share of the Big Sky Conference regular-season championship with Idaho State and Portland State. All three teams went 6-2-1 in league play.
Utah Valley is 4-0-0 in Great West Conference matches and will claim the outright GWC title for the second straight year with a victory Monday over Delaware State.
No strangers here: Montana and Utah Valley played twice last season, with the Wolverines claiming a 2-1 victory in the teams' match at Missoula and a 3-2 win at Orem. In the first match, UVU scored with just nine seconds remaining to pull out the stomach-punch victory at South Campus Stadium. The rematch wasn't as dramatic. Utah Valley took a 3-1 lead early in the second half and held a two-goal lead until Montana pulled within one in the 82nd minute.
The teams' only other match over the years was a 3-0 Montana win in 2006 at Wyoming's tournament.
More on Utah Valley: The Wolverines are 6-10-1 but are better than their record indicates. Four of UVU's losses have come in overtime and nine of its 10 losses have been by a single goal. Like Montana, Utah Valley enters Friday's match on a five-game winning streak.
The Wolverines, who have been outscored this season by just one, 27-26, have five different players who have scored multiple goals this fall, led by senior forward Regan Benson's seven.
Montana will be Utah Valley's fourth Big Sky opponent this season. UVU lost at Weber State 1-0, lost at home to Idaho State 2-1 in overtime and played to a 2-2 draw at Southern Utah.
Utah Valley's other notable game was a 1-0 loss at BYU. The Cougars are currently ranked No. 5 in the nation with a 14-1-1 record. UVU was outshot 21-2, but junior keeper Lauren Sack kept the Wolverines in the game with eight saves.
"In our final game of the regular season we wanted to make sure the team we are playing is going to be a challenge, someone that keeps us sharp going into the Big Sky tournament. Utah Valley will do that for us," UM coach Mark Plakorus said.
"It's a team that we played twice last year and lost to twice, so we know they are well-coached, very athletic and capable of scoring a lot of goals."
A Big Sky break: Montana and Portland State, who will meet in one of the Big Sky Conference semifinals on Nov. 2 at Pocatello, Idaho, both opted to schedule a match this week leading up to next week's Big Sky tournament. PSU plays at CSU Bakersfield on Wednesday.
Weber State and Idaho State, who last played Saturday, both chose to keep the coming weekend free of matches and will have a 13-day break between their final regular-season matches and their tournament meeting.
"I can't speak for other coaches and what they think their teams need, but I think the most important thing for us is to play and stay sharp," said Plakorus, who took his team to play Seattle University last year at this time leading up to the Big Sky tournament.
"Playing Friday will allow us to refine some things that we want to work on this week, and it will allow us to give some players a little more playing time. We want to make sure we're rested going into the tournament, but at the same time we want to be sharp."
Big Sky tournament schedule set: The four-team Big Sky Conference tournament will be held Friday, Nov. 2, and Sunday, Nov. 4, at Pocatello, Idaho.
In Friday's semifinals, No. 3 Montana will face No. 2 Portland State at 11:30 a.m. That match will be followed by No. 1 Idaho State hosting No. 4 Weber State at 3 p.m.
The winners will meet Sunday at 1 p.m. in the tournament championship match, with the winner advancing to the NCAA tournament.
In the teams' regular-season meetings, Portland State beat Montana 2-0 at home, and Weber State beat Idaho State 1-0 at home. The Grizzlies hosted both ISU and WSU last month and came away with a 1-1 draw against the Bengals and a 1-0 victory over the Wildcats.
"We just wanted to get into the tournament and give ourselves a chance," said Plakorus, who coached Montana to the tournament championship last season at Greeley, Colo., as the No. 4 seed.
"I don't think seeding is very important, because there really isn't a lot of separation from top to bottom. Going into last weekend, there were still eight teams alive to make the (four-team) tournament. That and the fact we have three co-champions shows how competitive the conference is."
Hoon having historic season: Senior goalkeeper Kristen Hoon, who has played all but 39 minutes in goal this fall for the Grizzlies, is having one of the better seasons in program history.
Here is how Hoon measures up:
Goals against average
Team goals against average
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