(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Visiting Northwest Nazarene University used a first-half goal from Makayla Roggow to top the Montana State University Billings women’s soccer team 1-0 on a windy Thursday afternoon at Yellowjacket Field in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play.
The Yellowjackets mounted an urgent comeback effort in the second half, out-shooting the Nighthawks 9-4 over the final 45 minutes. But NNU withstood the storm to break a tie with the Yellowjackets in the middle of the GNAC standings. At the midway point of the conference season, NNU bumped up to third place at 5-3-2 overall and 3-3-1 in league play, while MSUB slid to sixth place at 5-5-2 overall and 2-4-1 in conference matches.
Perhaps MSUB’s best chance to equalize came with less than 90 seconds left on the clock, as the hosts won a late corner kick. Haylee Gunter got an open header attempt from the cross, but her shot rolled inches wide of the left goal post. “This is a very disappointing result from us,” said MSUB head coach Stephen Cavallo. “We had the chances in the game to certainly get something from it, and it’s the final execution piece that is the difference between us winning and losing games right now.”
NNU goalkeeper Alexis Montoya delivered crucial saves throughout the match as well, earning her fourth shutout of the season. None of her season-high 11 saves were bigger than her 89th-minute denial on an attempt by MSUB’s Hailee Gertsch. The second-year freshman twirled past a pair of defenders at the top of the box, before drilling a low, powerful strike headed for the left corner of the net. Montoya fully extended her right arm, sliding to touch the ball inches wide of the post.
Montoya’s other key stop came in the 72nd minute, when MSUB forward Liberty Palmer gained momentum on the left side of the field and beat her defender into the goal box. The NNU keeper charged forward and closed the angle, before sliding to save Palmer’s on-target attempt from point-blank range.
The Nighthawks, who opened the match on the front foot and were the better side over the first 15 minutes of play, were rewarded in the 37th minute after winning a corner kick. Magda Wronski served a curling ball just outside of the six-yard box, which Roggow ran onto and nodded just under the crossbar for her second goal of the season.
Yellowjacket goalkeeper Clare Keenan had four big saves throughout the match to help keep the Yellowjackets in it for the full 90 minutes. Her first denial came in the 33rd minute, when Sierra Sanchez lifted a promising strike towards the upper part of the goal from outside the box. Keenan leapt up and tapped the ball just over the crossbar with her right fist to keep the match scoreless for the time being.
Keenan’s other notable save came in the 76th minute, when reigning GNAC Player of the Week Madison Grande got loose from her defender inside the box on the left side. Keenan adeptly covered her near post, reacting with a diving stop to her right on a close-range strike from Grande that was headed into the back of the net.
Gertsch played an instrumental role in the comeback effort late in the match, pushing forward from her normal center back position and helping the offensive unit create chances over the final 15 minutes of play. Leila Clark led the Yellowjackets with four shots and two on target, and MSUB out-shot the Nighthawks 16-13 in the game.
McKenzie Buell led the visitors with three attempts, while Chandler Kauffman and Kailyn LaBrosse joined Wronski in playing the full 90 minutes on the back line in front of Montoya.
No. 8 Seattle Pacific University comes to town Saturday, with a 1 p.m. kickoff at Yellowjacket Field. The Falcons won the first meeting between the teams 5-0 on Sept. 23 in Seattle.
In men's action, a goal in the opening four minutes of play Thursday night proved enough to lift host Simon Fraser University to a 1-0 Great Northwest Athletic Conference win over MSUB.
Justus Meier scored just over three minutes into the game, and SFU completed its fifth shutout of the season by keeping the Yellowjackets out of the net. SFU improved to 5-5 on the season and is now 2-2 in conference play, while the Yellowjackets slipped to 3-6-1 overall and are 1-3 in league games with the defeat.
Meier struck early on, receiving the ball near midfield and embarking on a blistering run down the right side before cutting back towards the goal box. The forward curled a left-footed strike into the upper-right corner of the net from the top of the box, leaving MSUB goalkeeper Georgios Theodoulidis no chance to reach up and make a save.
MSUB’s first big scoring chance of the night came in the 22nd minute, with the ball pushing forward into the right corner. Jeremie Briquet received a quick pass inside the six-yard box, but his attempt was pushed high over the crossbar as Simon Fraser dodged a bullet.
Pascal Pisarek, who turned in a solid 76 minutes on the back line, had his first big intervention of the night 11 minutes before the halftime break. The senior outside back cut across the goal box to get his foot on a charging SFU player, and he was the last line of defense before what would have been a clear shot on target.
Halil Yilmaz had one of his game-high five shots on the ensuing shift of play down the field, heading an on-target strike towards the lower-right corner of the net. SFU goalkeeper Aidan Bain laid out however and knocked the strike away to keep the lead in the hands of the hosts. Bain had another crucial stop inside of one minute in the first half, leaping up to push away a strong strike from Yilmaz and get his team into the break up 1-0.
The Yellowjackets kept the pressure on to start the second half, with three shots in the opening five minutes. The MSUB defensive wall did its job 10 minutes into the second half, as a 22-yard free-kick strike by Connor Glennon was deflected out of play before Theodoulidis needed to make a save.
Aside from saves on shots by Mathias Kjølner and Yilmaz, Bain was rarely troubled over the next 20 minutes of play as the Yellowjackets’ time ran low. The SFU shot stopper had one final key moment, jumping up to tip a close-range header shot by Yilmaz over the crossbar at the 80-minute mark. The Yellowjackets won a pair of corner kicks over the final 10 minutes, but couldn’t generate a serious threat towards goal for a chance to equalize.
Bain had a season-high nine saves to earn the clean sheet, while SFU’s back line of Simone Masi, Owen McBride, and Niko Papakyriakopoulos each played the full 90 minutes. Glennon led SFU with three shots, and the hosts won despite being out-shot 14-11 overall and landing just four strikes on frame.
Theodoulidis finished with three saves in goal for MSUB, while Bryan Maxwell, Luca Battistotti, and Kjølner played the full 90 minutes defensively.
THE BUZZ: Yilmaz was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 1-22-4 all-time against SFU and is 0-12-2 in matches played in Burnaby.
NEXT UP: The Yellowjackets cross the border on Saturday and take on Western Washington University with another 7 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Mountain kickoff in Bellingham, Wash.