(MSUB Athletics release)
LAKEWOOD, Colo. – The first (official) goal by Montana State University Billings women’s soccer freshman Julia Keller helped salvage a 1-1 draw at Colorado Christian University Thursday in the 2018 season opener at Trailblazer Stadium.
The freshman from Munich, Germany had scored in each of MSUB’s three exhibition matches this fall, before finding the net in the 84th minute to even the score at 1-1 and help prevent a loss for the ‘Jackets in their first game of the year. With less than seven minutes remaining in regulation, Keller evened the score as she chased down a long pass by Amanda Grimshaw and beat CCU goalkeeper Ireland VanDyke in a one-on-one inside the box.
“This was a great, competitive match that really tested the tenacity of our team,” said MSUB head coach Stephen Cavallo. “I am proud of how we responded after giving up the goal, and in the end we earned a hard-fought draw. This is a game that is really going to help prepare us for the rigors of the GNAC.”
The Yellowjackets moved to 0-0-1 on the season, and avoided a third straight loss against CCU after falling 2-1 in both 2016 and 2017.
The Cougars’ breakthrough came as a result of a set piece in the 63rd minute, as the home team took advantage of its fifth corner kick of the game. MSUB goalkeeper Erinn Harder punched away the initial service, but Maddison Hogan drilled a 30-yard shot into the lower left corner of the net.
Harder finished the day with four stops, and played well under pressure to earn St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game recognition. Kalin Sandow and Amanda Hemmen each also played the full 110 minutes, helping anchor MSUB’s defensive unit as the center backs.
Overall the match finished even, with CCU holding slight advantages in corner kicks (6-5) and shots (10-9).
CCU (0-0-1) won the first corner of the game less than 10 minutes in, and Harder came off her line to confidently punch away a curling cross by Renee De La Torre.
The ‘Jackets nearly broke through in the 15th minute of action, after winning a free kick on the left side of the field. Alexa Iacolucci delivered a good cross into the box, but a shot by Keller missed just over the crossbar.
MSUB dodged a bullet late in the opening half, when a one-time attempt by Stephanie Muchow from the top of the box missed just wide of the left post.
While each team had a solid attempt during the first 45 minutes, it was an evenly-played half overall with CCU holding a 4-3 advantage in shots.
CCU came out of the break with an immediate chance, as a shot by Sarah Butler required the second save of the game from Harder. MSUB countered on the other end with another free kick opportunity, this time within shooting range for Iacolucci. The junior’s attempt was a bit high however, as the score line remained at 0-0.
The ‘Jackets had another close chance midway through the second, but a cross into the box was just out of the reach of a striding Hallie Vervair from six yards away.
Continuing to defend as they sought an equalizer, the Yellowjackets dealt with more pressure from the CCU offense late in the match. With 10 minutes remaining, Harder had perhaps her best save of the match as she leapt up and to her left to deflect a close-range shot by Karli Wilson.
Cassidy O’Dell won the ‘Jackets a corner midway through the first overtime period, winning the ball and firing a shot off a defender. Courteney Shovlin nearly gave the ‘Jackets the win at the end of the first overtime, but her shot from outside the box sailed narrowly over the crossbar.
Lexie Bloyder managed a late attempt towards target, missing high with an off-balance strike from range. Keller followed with another shot on frame, but VanDyke handled it with ease.
Muchow had a dangerous look towards goal with just two minutes remaining, and the ‘Jackets breathed a sigh of relief when the ball missed high.
“Today definitely had that first-match-of-the-season feel,” Cavallo said. “We were a little off on our touches and passes, but that is to be expected. Today for us, it was all about the personality this group has, and again we are proud of the ability to fight back.”
THE BUZZ: MSUB is now 2-3-1 all-time against the Cougars…Thursday marked the fifth-career 110-minute performance by both Sandow and Hemmen…it was Harder’s third-career 110-minute effort…Grimshaw made it two straight games on the score sheet against CCU, as she scored the lone goal in the 29th minute of last year’s defeat…the assist was the first of the sophomore’s career.
NEXT UP: MSUB faces Wayne State College on Saturday at 11 a.m.