(Editor’s note: University of Montana athletics release)
MISSOULA — In addition to converting the penalty kick in the match’s 88th minute that gave Montana a 1-1 draw with Idaho on Sunday afternoon at South Campus Stadium, sophomore Kennedy Yost did something that might be even more important for the Grizzlies as they move forward with the rest of their season.
She emerged as the best player on the field against the Vandals, something her first-year coach has been waiting for.
Yost took a match-high six shots, but there was more to it than that. She set up teammates, and when she had the ball at her feet, there was no panic, just poise and confident possession. It felt like she was in charge and knew it.
“Kennedy stepped up to a level I’ve been waiting for. She can play and control a game that well. She was lights-out good for us,” said coach Chris Citowicki.
Of course all the good Yost did, particularly in the second half, would have been for naught had she not drawn a penalty kick with Montana’s fortunes on the line in the closing moments of regulation.
Caitlin Rogers took a free kick near the end line, just outside the box, with the clock ticking down to three minutes left in regulation, Idaho leading 1-0. She played the ball to Yost, whose shot was blocked, but as she went to pounce on the rebound, she was brought down by an Idaho defender.
The team’s top choice in that moment to take the penalty kick would be senior center back Taryn Miller — both Yost and Citowicki said as much — but she wasn’t at 100 percent in the second half, which allowed Yost the opportunity.
“Once I heard she didn’t want it, I said I wanted it,” said Yost, who slotted it to the right of the goalkeeper, ultimately giving Montana a point in the standings. “I’m not big on power. I just try to place it and try to make them guess the wrong way.”
Citowicki said it was a fair result and one he was happy to get, especially with the way Idaho came out playing.
The Vandals lost 3-0 at Northern Colorado on Friday night, which was an unacceptable result for their first-year head coach, Jeremy Clevenger, who let his team know as much in the hours between weekend matches.
Before the match on Sunday was three minutes gone, the Vandals had two shots and a corner kick to their credit.
“We knew they were going to come out fired up to play. You have to. You just lost 3-0. They came out physical and strong, and we weren’t ready for it,” said Citowicki.
“You can’t be physically intimidated and bullied out of games. You have to compete, and we didn’t come out with the right type of energy.”
For the second time this weekend, the Grizzlies took their coach’s halftime message to heart. But before Montana could reestablish itself, the Grizzlies found themselves in a 1-0 hole.
Less than 90 seconds into the second half, Idaho’s Claire Johnson played a long ball toward goal. It bounced between players before making its way to Myah Merino, who took a touch and scored from 15 yards out.
It wasn’t a lucky goal — the Vandals had given themselves a chance, which is the important first step in making goals come a team’s way — but it left Montana’s players looking around at each other, exasperated, wondering what else they could have done.
“It was one of those plays when no one really made a mistake for us,” said Yost. “It was just soccer.
“We just put our heads down and kept trying and trying. We got fouled a couple of times and finally took advantage of it. Earning free kicks and corners when you’re down is the way to win a game, so we just kept trying to get things in.”
It didn’t look good for much of the second half, with Idaho maintaining a maddeningly high amount of the possession, but Montana’s moment finally came.
Yost drew the game-changing foul and she delivered when her team needed her most.
“In our conference, it’s a game of moments,” said Citowicki. “I was so happy with our response to going down 1-0, especially knowing some of the scoring issues we’ve had this year. Our response was tremendous.
“I love the fight we showed and how Kennedy turned it on and played to her potential.”
Claire Howard made eight saves in the game to match a season high, freshman McKenzie Kilpatrick made her first career start.
Montana (1-6-4, 0-1-2 BSC) will play its first league road matches next weekend when it plays at Idaho State (2-9-0, 1-3-0 BSC) and surging Weber State (5-3-4, 3-0-1 BSC).
The Grizzlies will play the Bengals on Friday at 4 p.m. in Pocatello, the Wildcats, who have lost just once in their last nine matches, at 1 p.m. on Sunday.