Soccer: Widner Named Big Sky Player of the Week

By JOEL CARLSON for GoGriz.com

Freshman forward Hallie Widner, who scored three of Montana’s four goals last weekend as the Grizzlies opened league play with a pair of home wins, was named the Big Sky Conference co-Offensive Player of the Week Tuesday.

Widner, of Meridian, Idaho, shared the award with Idaho sophomore forward Kavita Battan. Southern Utah sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Bolding was named the Defensive Player of the Week, giving the three teams that went 2-0 last weekend a sweep of the league’s weekly awards.

The Grizzlies opened their Big Sky schedule on Friday with a 1-0 shutout of Weber State, then knocked off Idaho State 3-1 on Sunday. It was the first time Montana has opened its Big Sky schedule with two wins since 2003.

And Widner, who played 165 of a possible 180 minutes in the two matches, was a big reason.

She scored the game-winner, the first of her career, in the 19th minute against the Wildcats for the only goal in Friday’s match.

Senior Chloe Torres played a cross into the box from the right side. The pass was too high for Widner to head, but the Weber State defender behind her played the ball to the ground and right to Widner’s feet. With her back to the goal, she spun and placed her shot just under the crossbar.

Hallie Widner

HallieWidner

Facing the Big Sky’s highest-scoring team on Sunday, Widner gave Montana the important first goal just 7:06 into the match.

Junior Mackenzie Akins, who was played forward by senior Paytyn Wheeler, did the heavy lifting on the play, drawing three ISU defenders when she got into the box. She touched a pass to an uncovered Widner, who was left with only the keeper to beat, which she did inside the right post.

The teams exchanged goals later in the first half, and Montana was still holding on to a 2-1 lead when Widner struck again in the 77th minute to give the Grizzlies a two-goal cushion.

Senior Chloe Torres set Widner up on the left side. Some fancy footwork allowed Widner to free herself from her defender, and she played a left-footed shot that eluded Idaho State keeper Sheridan Hapsic.

Her goals give her a team-high five for the season, a total tied for third in the Big Sky Conference. The production, even in Widner’s first year, comes as no surprise to UM coach Mark Plakorus, who recruited Widner off FC Nova.

“I liked Hallie from the very first time I saw her play. Her skill, her work rate, her intelligence, her competitive attitude. She wants to be good, and she’s willing to do the little things to try to be good,” Plakorus said. “And she’s a fantastic teammate. She’ll do anything for them.

“All those are characteristics that I felt would fit very well on our team. She is the type of person and player I want in our program.”

Widner’s five goals have come on just 17 shots, giving her a shot percentage of .294, the best mark on the team for anyone who’s taken more than two attempts.

She scored her first collegiate goal in the 73rd minute to put Montana up 3-0 in its 3-1 victory at Houston Baptist and scored in the 33rd minute in the Grizzlies’ 2-0 victory over Colorado State on Sept. 19 in their home opener.

Widner also had a pair of assists in Montana’s double-overtime loss at Missouri, giving her 10 points in the Grizzlies’ last five matches.

“I don’t think anything’s really changed with Hallie,” said Plakorus. “As you go through a season, you get more and more comfortable playing with your teammates, and she’s starting to work really well with them.

“She’s understanding what she needs to do a little better, and she’s becoming more and more comfortable on the field and with the speed of the game and how quickly she needs to make decisions.”

Montana, tied atop the conference standings with surprising Southern Utah and Idaho, will play at Sacramento State (5-6-0, 0-2-0 BSC) on Friday and at defending Big Sky champion Portland State (3-4-3, 0-1-1 BSC) on Sunday.

Montana Sports Information