(MSUB Athletics photo)

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – Wrapping up the non-conference portion of its schedule this weekend, the Montana State University Billings men’s soccer team hits the road for a pair of matches in Bismarck, N.D.

The Yellowjackets (0-4) take on the University of Mary on Thursday evening at 5:15 p.m. Central time (4:15 p.m. MTN) at the University of Mary soccer field. MSUB then has a neutral site contest on Saturday at 3 p.m. Central (2 p.m. MTN) against Upper Iowa University at the same location. Thursday’s match will feature live video and live statistics and Saturday’s will feature live stats only.

“We have put ourselves in an unfavorable position, but I know we are going to grind to get out of it,” MSUB head coach Alex Balog commented on the team’s tough start to the year. “This program has the mentality and ability to do it. It’s good that we play so quickly again (after Sunday’s match), so we don’t have too much time to dwell on things. As of Wednesday we’ll be on the road together, which will allow our team to grow a bit closer again. That will be needed for our last two non-conference games.”

Story continues below

The road contests are the final games before MSUB begins its 12-match Great Northwest Athletic Conference schedule, kicking off with a four-game home stand from Sept. 21-30. MSUB is coming off a pair of losses last week at the Fourth Annual Rimrock Classic sponsored by TNT Automotive & Marine, including a 4-0 defeat to No. 10 Cal Poly Pomona and a 6-1 setback against Cal State San Bernardino.

LOOKING FOR A SPARK: One of the top scoring teams in the NCAA west region a year ago, the Yellowjackets averaged more than two goals per game during the 2016 season (40 goals in 18 games). MSUB is looking to find the offensive firepower it possessed last year, as the ‘Jackets have scored just three times through their first four games this fall.

The team hasn’t gone without chances however, as 40.7 percent of MSUB’s shots have landed on target this season. The ‘Jackets are scoring on just 11.1 percent of shots however, translating to a mark of about one in every four shots on target finding the net. Comparatively, MSUB’s opponents are placing 43.2 percent of their shots on target, and nearly half of those are going in (18.9 shot percentage).

LEX NETS FIRST CAREER GOAL: Punching home MSUB’s lone goal over the weekend was senior Alexis Chavez, who scored for the first time in his career with the Yellowjackets. The defender was pushed forward inside the goal box on a free-kick chance for MSUB, and capitalized on a deflected save after a shot on target by Ignacio Crespo.

LOHMANN RETURNS TO GOAL: Making his 2017 debut last week, senior goalkeeper Tom Lohmann saw action in both of MSUB’s games. The returning all-conference shot stopper was sidelined due to injury early in the year, but is on track to make a full return for the ‘Jackets this weekend.

University of Mary Marauders
Thursday, Sept. 14 – 5:15 PM (Central)
University of Mary Soccer Field – Bismarck, N.D.
2017 Record: 1-2-1
Head Coach: Dave Cook, 9th season
2016 Record: 6-10

MSUB will be the second straight Billings-based team the Marauders will take on, after a narrow 3-2 loss against Rocky Mountain College on Sunday in Bismarck. Mary is off to a 1-2-1 start to the year under veteran head coach Dave Cook, and the team will take on MSUB’s other opponent this week, Upper Iowa, next Monday.

UM started the year with an 8-0 loss to GNAC foe Simon Fraser University, but rallied for a solid 1-0 result against Colorado Christian. The loss to the Battlin’ Bears came after a 1-1 double-overtime draw against South Dakota Mines, as UM will look to nudge its record back to .500 against the ‘Jackets.

Zack Jensen is the team’s leading scorer so far this year, with a pair of goals against Rocky last weekend. Joel McIlroy and Gabriel Carvalho have each scored once this year, the former’s goal counting as the game-winner against CCU.

Veteran goalkeeper Ludviq Rhodin has played every minute between the posts for UM, totaling 27 saves through the first four matches. The junior from Hoganas, Sweden had four stops in his shutout performance against the Cougars.

The Series: MSUB holds a commanding advantage in the all-time series between the teams, at 27-7-2. The ‘Jackets are 13-4-1 in matches played in Bismarck, and MSUB has lost just once in the last 25 meetings between the teams.

Last Time Out: MSUB’s offense fired on all cylinders, in a 6-0 blowout at Yellowjacket Field last September. Ricardo Palomino scored twice, and Ian Bream, Guillaume Kremer, and JD Hauenstein each had a goal in the lopsided result the last time the teams met.

Upper Iowa University Peacocks
Saturday, Sept. 16 – 3 PM (Central)
University of Mary Soccer Field – Bismarck, N.D.
2017 Record: 3-0
Head Coach: Willie McGowan, 1st season
2016 Record: 8-9, 4-4 MIAA

Under first-year head coach Willie McGowan, the Peacocks are off to a perfect 3-0 start to the 2017 campaign. UIU started with a comfortable 4-1 result over Wisconsin-Parkside on Sept. 1, before battling for a 1-0 win over Lewis and a dramatic, 2-1 overtime victory over Northern Michigan last week.

With seven goals in three games, UIU’s offense has been balanced as six different players have found the net. Ruairidh Crawford is the lone Peacock to have scored twice, including the game-winning goal against Lewis.

Goalkeeper Connor Rortvedt has been solid with a dozen saves this year and one shutout on his record. He and the Peacock back line have not conceded a first-half goal this season, as UIU has scored first in all three of its matches so far.

The Series: The teams have met once before, battling to a 2-2 double-overtime draw on Sept. 5, 2014 in Rapid City, S.D. In his first season with the ‘Jackets at the time, Lohmann recorded eight saves and played all 120 minutes in the net.