(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
TEMPE, AZ – The Montana soccer team dropped a 3-1 decision to Arizona State on Thursday night in a weather-delayed match at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe to fall to 0-3-0 on the season.
That was the bad news. The good? The Grizzlies played a mostly even match against an opponent from the Pac-12 and outplayed Arizona State for stretches, including the opening minutes when the Grizzlies put the Sun Devils on their heels with an aggressive start.
Ellie Otteson scored Montana’s first goal of the season in the 25th minute to even the match at 1-1. Arizona State would score the game-winner in the 34th and add a second-half insurance goal in the 67th to win its season opener.
“There were a ton of positives tonight,” said first-year coach Chris Citowicki. “The way we moved the ball and never panicked and created so many chances, I thought it was an incredible performance from us.
“Obviously I’m gutted by the loss, but I’m also extremely proud. We played 90 minutes our way, our style, and we stayed committed to that with tremendous energy. I’m very happy about that.”
Montana’s road trip, which was originally supposed to take the Grizzlies to Hawaii, not Arizona, got off to a rocky start on Tuesday, when Hurricane Lane changed the travel plans of both Montana and Arizona State.
The weather didn’t make it easy on the teams on Thursday night either, as lightning and rain forced the start of the match to be delayed by more than 90 minutes. There was another 30-minute delay shortly after Otteson’s goal, when lightning reappeared in the area.
“It was hard, especially not eating since 3:30, then you’re waiting and you’re waiting, only to get delayed again,” said Citowicki. “It was difficult, but they didn’t let it get to them.
“They didn’t use it as an excuse not to play hard. I was very happy with our response.”
Montana got after Arizona State and Sydney Day early, forcing the Sun Devil keeper to make a pair of saves in the first four minutes of the match.
But it was Arizona State that would strike first, despite not taking its first shot until the 17th minute. In the 22nd minute, Cori Sullivan crossed a ball from the right side and Nicole Douglas, a freshman from England, one-timed it out of the air, inside the near post to give ASU a 1-0 lead.
It would be less than three minutes later that Otteson tied it. Arizona State stopped Montana’s rush up the field, but in their attempt to clear the ball out of the box, a defender kicked it directly into Otteson’s legs, and the ball went past Day and into the goal.
“We built up to that moment,” said Citowicki. “We’d just been scored on, but we said, Don’t change anything. Keep playing our game and we’ll create our chance, and we did.
“Ellie was exactly where she was supposed to be when the ball gets played in like that. That’s why the goal happened.”
A defensive turnover by Montana in the 34th minute allowed Douglas to score her second goal of the game. Sullivan added a goal to her earlier assist in the 67th minute for the match’s final score.
Arizona State outshot Montana by just one in the first half, 8-7, then peppered Griz goalkeeper Claire Howard with 13 second-half shots. The redshirt sophomore finished the match with a career-high eight saves.
Kennedy Yost led Montana with three shots as the Grizzlies put six of their 10 shots on goal.
The Grizzlies won’t play again until they face Vermont on the opening day of the Montana Invitational on Friday, Aug. 31, at South Campus Stadium in Missoula.