(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
RIVERSIDE, CA – At halftime of his team’s match at California Baptist on Friday afternoon, with the Grizzlies trailing 2-0, Montana soccer coach Chris Citowicki had just one question on his mind: Why would anyone schedule this match?
After all, his team had finished off its Big Sky Conference schedule last weekend with a road sweep and the Grizzlies were supposed to be on a high as they headed to Ogden, Utah, early next week for the league tournament.
Now they were down 2-0 to the Lancers, getting outshot 13-3 and on their way to getting blown out by a program in its first year playing at the Division I level.
There was a reason every other team in the Big Sky had taken this weekend off.
Then Citowicki was reminded why his predecessor had scheduled the match. His team won the second half and, despite the result — a 2-1 loss — will still take a head of steam into next week’s tournament. The Grizzlies looked that good over the final 45 minutes.
“I’d been searching to try to find the meaning of why this match was scheduled. What’s the point of it?” he asked.
“And it’s for that very reason. To be in that situation and be able to sit down together at halftime and address everything that needed to be addressed. I was ecstatic with our performance in the second half.”
The first half mirrored Sunday’s match at Sacramento State, but this time Montana was the one getting rolled over by a motivated opponent.
“Credit to them. It was Senior Day, and they came out flying,” Citowicki said. “They were incredible the first 22 minutes and caused us a lot of issues.”
The Lancers took the match’s first nine shots and were up 2-0 before the Grizzlies recorded their second shot. It was 2-0 at the break, and Montana had yet to put a shot on goal.
“I told them, if we come out and win this game but we’re lazy, it’s going to annoy me. And if we lose it and we’re lazy, it’s going to annoy me,” said Citowicki.
“It was, Can we play our style and keep doing what we’ve been doing? We didn’t do that for the first 45. We did for the second. I’m very happy with our response in the second half.”
It would take nearly the entire second half for Montana to get on the scoreboard, but Kennedy Yost’s individual effort ensured the Grizzlies would record a goal in their third consecutive match.
She got the ball in the middle of the field, beat the center mid, then beat the center back, and her shot from the top of the 18 rolled into the corner for her fourth goal of the season to match Alexa Coyle for the team lead.
“An amazing solo effort. Outrageously good. Brilliant,” said Citowicki. But it came in the 86th minute, and Montana wouldn’t have time to attempt another shot.
Beyond his team coming out of the match feeling good, again, about its chances next week, Citowicki also got what he wanted out of his lineup.
Caitlin Rogers, who’s played more than 1,600 minutes this season at center back, was able to take the match off, and Citowicki went eight players into his bench, with seven of them getting 45 minutes or more.
That included freshman goalkeeper Brooke Johnston, who made her collegiate debut late in the first half, with the score 2-0, and played all the second, more than 51 minutes in all.
She faced two corner kicks and two shots in her first three minutes on the field and looked like she’d been playing all season.
“It was good to see Brooke in goal and see everything she did. I was very happy we got to play everyone we did,” Citowicki said. “Now we’re looking forward to getting into playoffs.”
Montana, the Big Sky tournament’s No. 5 seed, will face No. 4 Northern Arizona on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Ogden in the quarterfinals.