Griz wrap up season Friday at UC Riverside
Oct. 29, 2013
The Montana women's soccer team will conclude its 2013 season this week when it plays at UC Riverside. The Grizzlies and Highlanders will face off under the lights of UCR Soccer Stadium on Friday at 8 p.m. (MT).
The match is the final outing of the season for Montana (6-8-4), which wrapped up Big Sky Conference play last weekend. The Grizzlies finished 3-5-1 in league play and tied for sixth.
Friday's match will be the final home contest for UC Riverside. The Highlanders finish their regular season on Sunday at Long Beach State in a Big West Conference match. UCR is tied for fourth in the Big West with UC Santa Barbara and still in contention to make the four-team Big West tournament.
Coverage: Fans wanting to track Friday's action can do so via live stats. A link to UCR's live stats can be found on the soccer schedule page at GoGriz.com.
The reason behind the match: When the Big Sky Conference decided to add a free weekend between the end of the regular season and the conference tournament, it gave coaches the opportunity to take the weekend off or add a nonconference match.
For the third straight year Griz coach Mark Plakorus, who doesn't like his team getting out of its play-every-weekend routine leading up to the tournament, scheduled a match.
In 2011 Montana played at Seattle University. In 2012 the Griz played at Utah Valley. Both of those years the match helped bridge the gap between the end of the Big Sky schedule and the league tournament, and Montana was unbeaten at those tournaments, going 1-0-3.
With the Grizzlies missing this year's tournament, Friday's match will simply be one final opportunity for a team playing as well as it has all season to get on the field one last time and end the season on a winning note.
"This game is about our program and about us continuing to build on how well we've played over the last couple of weekends," Plakorus said.
"Even though we don't have the tournament to prepare for, I think it's important for us to go out there with the right frame of mind and with the right competitive attitude and see if we can't play at a high level and come away with a good result."
Northern Colorado is the only other Big Sky team in action this weekend. The Bears host Colorado State on Friday.
More on Montana: The Grizzlies won three of their final five Big Sky Conference matches, but those wins weren't enough to overcome a 0-3-1 start. Montana will miss the Big Sky tournament for the first time since 2010.
Montana split at home last weekend against Northern Arizona, a 2-1 loss, and Southern Utah, a 3-1 victory.
In Friday's loss, senior Courtney Watson headed in senior India Watne's corner kick in the 56th minute to open the scoring, but NAU goals in the 73rd and 83rd minutes gave the Lumberjacks the victory and sent them to the Big Sky tournament for the first time since 2010.
Freshman Kailey Norman made her fourth start of the season in goal and made a pair of saves.
In Sunday's win, Montana scored multiple first-half goals for the first time this season. Watne opened the scoring in the 10th minute off a feed from sophomore Mackenzie Akins, and junior Brooke Moody made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute when she converted a penalty kick.
Junior Allie Simon scored her first goal of the season in the 70th minute off a cross from Watne to make it 3-0. It gave Watne her first multiple-point game of the season, and her assist on Simon's goal gave Watne her 14th career assist, which is tied for sixth on the Montana career list.
Senior Kendra McMillen got the start in goal and allowed a goal in the 79th minute while making four saves.
Scoring leader up in the air: Who will lead Montana in scoring this year? It looks like it will come down to Akins, who has 11 points on three goals and five assists, Watne, who has 10 points on four goals and two assists, and senior Maddey Frey, who has nine points on four goals and one assist.
More on UC Riverside: The Highlanders are 6-11-1. To use common opponents for a comparison, UCR hosted Northern Arizona in early September and played the Lumberjacks to a 1-1 draw. Later in September, Riverside played at Southern Utah and lost 1-0 in overtime.
The Highlanders, who enter Friday's match on a three-game losing streak, don't have any players with more than three goals this season, but they do have scoring depth. Eleven different players have scored their 18 goals.
Home and away: Montana has just one victory this season in eight road matches (3-0 at North Dakota). UC Riverside is 3-5-1 at home.
Big Sky tournament preview: The Big Sky Conference tournament will be hosted next week by No. 1 seed Portland State. The Vikings went 8-0-1 in their nine Big Sky matches (with only Southern Utah playing PSU to a draw) while allowing just three goals (one each to three different teams).
Northern Arizona went 7-2-0 in league play to earn the No. 2 seed. Weber State and Northern Colorado tied for third at 5-2-2. The Wildcats earned the No. 3 seed because of their 2-1 win over NAU. The Bears lost to the Lumberjacks.
In their regular-season matchup this year, Portland State hosted Northern Colorado and won 3-1. The Weber State-Northern Arizona match that WSU won was played at NAU.
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