SOCCER: Widner’s Late Goal Gives Grizzlies Outright Title (PHOTO GALLERY)

By JOEL CARLSON for GoGriz.com | Photos by WILLIAM MUNOZ

Freshman Hallie Widner’s goal in the 83rd minute was the match’s only scoring and gave the Montana soccer team a 1-0 victory over Northern Colorado Sunday afternoon at South Campus Stadium in Missoula.

The win gave the Grizzlies (11-5-2, 7-0-2 BSC) their ninth Big Sky Conference match without a loss and locked up the program’s first outright regular-season conference title since 2000. Montana clinched hosting rights to the Big Sky tournament Friday.

“The first thing we do when we get back (from holiday break) and start our cycle for the year is set our team goals, and one of the things this team wanted was an outright championship,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus.

“They went to work at that time and have done a fantastic job staying focused and doing the things you have to do to become a good team.”

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#8 Freshman, Hallie Widner. Photo by ©William Munoz for Make it Missoula.

Montana’s six-player senior class was part of the Grizzlies’ NCAA tournament team in 2011 and the regular-season co-champion team in 2012.

With what the 2014 team has accomplished, they helped raise the bar for the program, and that group — Tyler Adair, Brooke Moody, Ashley Robertson, Allie Simon, Chloe Torres and Paytyn Wheeler — was feted prior to the game.

“I was very pleased with how the team came out today,” said Plakorus. “You always want to make sure you play well on senior day. These seniors in particular have meant so much to this team and to this program.

“It was great that we played at a high level the entire game, and we needed to because Northern Colorado is a very good team. We needed to play well, and we did.”

Montana outshot Northern Colorado 6-1 in the first half, and both teams had a number of quality chances in the second half before Widner broke the ice with her team-leading seventh goal of the year.

Junior Mackenzie Akins took a shot from the left side early in the 83rd minute. UNC keeper Kaitlin Ruff made the save, but she could not corral the rebound. Widner was there, with no one between her and the net, to finish off the game-winner.

It was all Montana needed to record its ninth shutout of the season because of the work done by sophomore goalkeeper Kailey Norman and the back line in front of her.

UM stats Picture3The Grizzlies allowed just a single shot to North Dakota in Friday’s 7-0 victory. Northern Colorado ended up with five on Sunday, but two of those chances in the second half almost changed the complexion of the match.

In the 77th minute, Rebecca Lancia took a shot that Norman got just enough of to send the ball off the right post. And in the 81st minute Paige Morris headed a corner kick just over the crossbar.

Widner scored the game-winner, her second game-winner of the season, less than a minute later.

“I thought we played extremely well at the back today,” said Plakorus. “A team like Northern Colorado is bound to get some looks. You’re going to give up some opportunities, but you try to limit the other team as best you can, and I thought we did that today.

“Kailey made an unbelievable save on a chance they had, and then when we had our chance we were able to get ahold of the rebound and put it in.”

Montana, which concludes its regular season Friday at Eastern Washington, will host the Big Sky tournament in two weeks. The only other team to secure a spot in the six-team tournament is Portland State, which punched its ticket with a 3-1 victory at home Sunday over Idaho.

Six other teams have between 13 and 15 points in the standings going into the final week of regular-season matches. Outside of Idaho, which is done with its league schedule and locked into 14 points, every team has one match remaining next Friday.

Big Sky Conference standings:

Montana 7-0-2 (23) 11-5-2
Portland State 5-2-2 (17) 8-5-4
Eastern Washington 5-4-0 (15) 8-7-0
Northern Arizona 4-2-3 (15) 8-5-4
Southern Utah 4-3-2 (14) 7-6-3
Idaho 4-4-2 (14) 4-13-2
Northern Colorado 4-4-1 (13) 9-8-2
Idaho State 4-4-1 (13) 7-8-1
Sacramento State 4-5-0 (12) 9-9-0
Weber State 2-6-1 (7) 5-12-1
North Dakota 0-9-0 (0) 1-14-1

Montana Sports Information

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