(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA — Montana may only be in the early stages of finding a new soccer coach, but one important task — scheduling matches for the fall — is one thing he or she won’t need to play catch-up on upon getting hired later this spring.
That was a process started by former coach Mark Plakorus and finalized recently by Katie Benz, the team’s assistant coach who is overseeing the program in the interim.
Montana will play nine of its 19 matches next season at home, including four at South Campus Stadium before Labor Day arrives, and five of its nine Big Sky Conference games.
The Grizzlies will open the season at home, hosting the four-team Montana Cup, and two weeks later welcome another field for the Montana Invitational.
The new coach’s first team will be challenged early, facing Fresno State, a 10-win team last season, and San Francisco, which had wins last fall over California, Oklahoma, BYU and Portland, at the Montana Cup.
In between home tournaments the Grizzlies will make a trip to Hawaii to face the Rainbow Wahine and Arizona State in Honolulu.
At its second home tournament, over Labor Day weekend, Montana will face Vermont, a team that played in the America East championship match last fall, and North Dakota, by that time a member of the Summit League.
The nonconference portion of the schedule will end with consecutive road trips to face some of the top programs in the region.
The first will be to Wyoming and UNLV, the latter match on a Sunday night against a Rebels team that went 13-7 last season and was regionally ranked.
The nonconference will close with a single-match road trip to face Washington State, a team that made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament last season. The teams, which played to a 0-0 draw in Missoula in September, will be meeting for the fifth consecutive season.
The first two weekends of Montana’s Big Sky schedule in late September won’t determine the league champion, but the Grizzlies will open with three matches at home, the outcomes of which will likely reverberate through late October.
First: Northern Colorado, the 2015 tournament champion which knocked Montana out of the Big Sky tournament in the semifinals last fall.
Then: Eastern Washington, the 2016 and ’17 tournament champion, and Idaho, the 2015 and ’16 regular-season champion.
The close of the Grizzlies’ Big Sky schedule features matches against three of the six teams that played in November’s conference tournament at Cheney, Wash.: home for Northern Arizona and on the road at Portland State and Sacramento State.
In the off weekend between the end of the Big Sky regular-season schedule and the start of the league tournament on Oct. 31, Montana will travel to Southern California for a match against California Baptist, an 11-win team last season that advanced to the NCAA Division II national tournament.