(Editor’s note: University of Montana athletics release)
OGDEN, Utah — Weber State remained atop the Big Sky Conference standings with a 2-1 victory over the Montana soccer team on Sunday afternoon at Wildcat Soccer Field in Ogden, Utah.
Montana (2-7-4, 1-2-2 BSC) was unable to add any points to the three it picked up on Friday with its 1-0 victory at Idaho State, but the Grizzlies impressed their coach, even in defeat.
“This is one of the best games I’ve been involved with in a very long time,” said Chris Citowicki. “It was entertaining, end-to-end stuff, two teams playing high-level soccer.
“We lost, but to be involved in a game like this was so much fun.”
Montana answered Weber State’s goal in the 28th minute with one of its own, a Janessa Fowler penalty kick in the 41st, to send the teams into halftime tied.
The Wildcats (7-3-4, 5-0-1 BSC), who improved to 7-1-3 in their last 11 matches, scored the game-winner six minutes into the second half.
Montana outshot Weber State 6-3 in the second half, 9-8 for the match.
“Our challenge this weekend was, can we be more consistent with our effort? And we were outstanding,” said Citowicki. “Both games we competed so hard, which is why it’s difficult for me to be upset about this loss.
“We gave everything we had. Things were almost perfect for us, and we still lost, and that happens sometimes in soccer.”
Montana has not won at Ogden since 2006.
The Grizzlies fell behind midway through the first half when Olivia Barton scored her second goal of the season. She added her third in the 52nd minute.
“The first goal was a great finish by them. The second goal, the ball came across the box at 100 miles per hour. Claire couldn’t get out to it and they had somebody on the back post who scored,” said Citowicki.
“It was one of those goals where sometimes you just can’t stop everything. There was nothing to solve. It was an amazing cross and a great goal.”
Montana scored — for the third match in a row — late in the first half, when Kennedy Yost gained possession of the ball in the box and was taken down.
When that happened against Idaho last Sunday in Missoula, Yost stepped up and converted the penalty kick that gave the Grizzlies a 1-1 draw with the Vandals.
On Sunday, it was Janessa Fowler, and it was fitting that she be rewarded for the extra challenge she accepted on the road trip.
With last year’s Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Taryn Miller, sidelined this week, Fowler was asked to play center back, which she did for all 180 minutes.
She scored on the penalty kick, the fourth goal of her career, then took three shots over the match’s final 11 minutes that had to be saved by WSU goalkeeper Nikki Pittman.
“For Janessa to step in and play center back, a position she has not played in college, was unbelievable,” said Citowicki.
“She took the most shots of anybody on the team today, she scored a penalty kick and she had a chance to tie it up. She was outstanding.”
The outcome leaves Montana in seventh place in the Big Sky standings, with the top six teams out of 10 advancing to Ogden for the Big Sky tournament later this month.
There are two weeks of regular-season matches remaining, with the weekend just completed revealing the balanced nature of the league this fall.
Weber State took down Northern Colorado in overtime on Friday in a matchup of two of the Big Sky’s top teams, the same UNC team that rallied late to knock off Montana in extra time.
With the Grizzlies playing so evenly with the Wildcats on Sunday, it has Citowicki hoping for one thing his first season: just get his team to the postseason. Anything can happen after that.
“If we can make the tournament, it would be thrilling. It should be one of the most entertaining tournaments in a long time,” he said.
“There are so many teams that are so good and exciting to watch. If we bring the same energy we had this weekend to the rest of our matches, I like our chances of getting there.”
Montana will play its final home matches next weekend, hosting Southern Utah (2-12-0, 1-4-0 BSC) on Friday at 3 p.m. and second-place Northern Arizona (8-3-2, 4-0-1 BSC) at noon on Sunday.
The Grizzlies wrap up their league schedule with a road trip to Portland State and Sacramento State, the two teams currently tied one spot ahead of Montana in the standings.