Luca Battistotti pushes forward to score the game-winning goal for MSUB in a dramatic 2-1 win over No. 12 Upper Iowa in double overtime on Saturday afternoon. (Photo courtesy MSU Billings)

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – Coming off a pair of victories on the road last week, the Montana State University Billings men’s soccer team begins Great Northwest Athletic Conference play with a pair of matches at Yellowjacket Field this weekend.

MSUB (2-4) will host Northwest Nazarene University on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and Concordia University on Saturday at 3 p.m. Both matches will feature live video and live statistics, available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal here.

This week’s matches are the start of a four-game home stand, with MSUB hosting conference foes Seattle Pacific University and Saint Martin’s University next weekend.

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The ‘Jackets picked up their first two wins of the year last week, with a loud 4-2 victory against the University of Mary and a dramatic, 2-1 double-overtime triumph over No. 12 Upper Iowa University. “Our start to the season was a little difficult with a lot of goals conceded, but this past weekend in Bismarck did a lot of good for our program,” said MSUB head coach Alex Balog. “There is a lot we can build on, and we are looking forward to the two games this weekend. I know the guys are excited for our first two conference games.”

KREMER, LOHMANN SWEEP WEEKLY AWARDS: Taking home both the GNAC Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week awards, MSUB’s Guillaume Kremer and Tom Lohmann were singled out by the conference for outstanding efforts in the Yellowjackets’ wins. Lohmann matched a career high with nine saves against Mary, and had 14 overall in the two games. Kremer scored his first goal of the year, and also had three assists including the pass on the game-winner against UIU.

JD FINDS HIS GROOVE: Sophomore forward JD Hauenstein scored in each game last week, finding the net for the first time this season after scoring four times last fall as a freshman. Hauenstein placed 6 of 7 shot attempts on target last week, which is no surprise based on his track record. In 2016, Hauenstein took just 19 shots, but put 12 of them on frame for a shots-on-goal percentage of 63.2. He is off to an even more efficient start this year, with a SOG percentage of 87.5 through five games played.

ON THE OFFENSIVE: With three goals in the opening 20 minutes against Mary, the Yellowjackets began to resemble the goal-scoring machine that was their offense a season ago. The team’s six goals in its two wins last week improved its goals-per-game average from 0.5 to 1.5 (9 goals in 6 games), much closer to last year’s average of 2.22 per game (40 goals in 18 games).

DANA CHECKS SCORING OFF HIS LIST: Finding the net for the first time this year against Mary was junior Dana Kowachek, who tucked home a pass from fellow Montanan Sam Phillips in the 15th minute for his first career goal as a Yellowjacket. The Missoula, Mont., native has started five matches this fall after transferring from Fort Lewis College, and is contributing 60 minutes per game as a forward. “The momentum we have right now is huge after beating a ranked team, and we definitely have a lot of confidence going into the next game,” Kowachek commented. “It was pretty nice getting the assist from another Montana guy Sam Phillips. Every win counts in the GNAC, and we are looking forward to it this weekend.”

DEFENDERS DELIVER OFFENSIVE PUNCH: Each scoring a goal last week, defenders Realf Zhivanaj and Luca Battistotti aided in the wins with well-timed runs into the goal box. Zhivanaj scored the final goal against Mary, heading home a corner kick by Kremer in just his third collegiate game. Battistotti’s finish was perhaps the most important of the season so far, as he headed in a Kremer corner in minute 104 for the golden goal against Upper Iowa.

HEPBURN’S HUNDRED MINUTES: Commanding the midfield and helping MSUB keep possession throughout the weekend was junior center midfielder Adam Hepburn, who’s efforts on 50-50 balls were a major factor in dictating the flow of the game. Hepburn played all 103 minutes on Saturday against Upper Iowa, marking the second 100-plus minute performance of his career. His other complete-game overtime effort came in a 2-2 draw at Saint Martin’s last fall on Oct. 1.

 

Northwest Nazarene University Crusaders

Thursday, September 21 – 3:30 PM – Yellowjacket Field

2017 Record: 3-2

Head Coach: Joel DeLass, 2nd season

2016 Record: 9-5-4, 6-3-3 GNAC (3rd place)

The Crusaders had a three-game winning streak snapped last week, falling to Cal Baptist 5-0 at home. Prior to the defeat, NNU had outscored its previous three opponents 6-1 in a trio of victories under second-year head coach Joel DeLass.

 

Michael Bryant is the team’s top performer offensively so far, with a pair of goals and an assist through his first five matches of the year. Five other players have scored once for NNU, which has been outscored narrowly 8-7 this fall.

Sophomore returner Linus Mansson leads all position players with 391 minutes played, helping patrol the back line along with Jose Labanino-Ramos. Freshman back Daniel Brendel, and midfielders Alex Mitrovic and Edwin Quiroz have each also started every game.

In goal, Jacob Hillyer has been tasked with filling the shoes of 2016 graduate and all-conference keeper Ryan Foo. So far, Hillyer has made 15 saves and allowed just two goals in 215 minutes.

The Series: MSUB is 10-13-2 all-time against NNU, and has won just twice in the last 10 meetings dating back to the 2012 season. The ‘Jackets hold a 2-5-2 record in home matches against the Crusaders.

Last Time Out: The teams split a pair of games last fall, each winning the away match. MSUB opened its 2016 conference slate with a resounding 3-0 win in Nampa, Idaho, before the Crusaders got revenge with a thrilling 4-3, overtime win in Billings. Hauenstein scored in the road win and Niklas Schregel scored MSUB’s first goal in the home loss a year ago.

 

Concordia University Cavaliers

Saturday, September 23 – 3 PM – Yellowjacket Field

2017 Record: 1-3-1

Head Coach: Dan Birkey, 30th season

2016 Record: 4-10-3, 1-9-2 GNAC (7th place)

Concordia is looking to snap a four-match winless skid, after opening the regular season with a 2-0 win over Humboldt State University. Since then, CU has scored just two goals while conceding nine over its last four matches. The Cavaliers are off Thursday, before making their 2017 GNAC debut in Billings on Saturday.

 

Reggie Reyes is the lone CU player with both a goal and an assist this fall, and the freshman defender has played in all five matches. Kieran McMinn, Noah Swigart, and Todd Gibbs are the other CU players with a goal, and Nick Evans and Paul Seydel each have one assist.

Defender Michael Hatch and forward Lewis Coates are the other Cavaliers in addition to Seydel to have started all five matches among field players.

In goal, returning veteran Grant Alcorn and senior Benoit Bouillant have split the five games, each playing upwards of 200 minutes. Bouillant has played the most recent two matches, and has a 1.10 goals-against average with a dozen saves and three goals allowed.

The Series: MSUB is undefeated against Concordia, with a mark of 2-0-2 since the teams’ first meeting in 2015. The ‘Jackets are 2-0 in matches played in Billings, with both ties coming in Portland. MSUB has fallen behind in each of the last three meetings between the teams.

Last Time Out: Despite falling behind 1-0 in the opening 14 minutes, MSUB rattled off the next four goals in a decisive 4-1 win on Oct. 20, 2016 in Billings. Chad Triplett scored his first career goal, and Ricardo Palomino found the net the last time the teams met.

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