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Claire Howard named Big Sky's top goalkeeper as Montana Grizzlies prepare for conference tournament

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Posted at 7:04 PM, Apr 13, 2021

(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)

MISSOULA -- Record-setting senior Claire Howard was named the Big Sky Conference goalkeeper of the year on Tuesday and Montana had five players named all-Big Sky, the league office announced.

Howard, who had never been voted higher than second-team all-Big Sky, broke the league record earlier this season for career shutouts. She’ll take 32 into this week’s Big Sky tournament in Ogden, Utah.

Howard also was voted first-team all-Big Sky, as were Avery Adams, Alexa Coyle and Taylor Hansen. No other team had more than two. It’s the most first-team selections for Montana since 2014.

Adams and Hansen both repeated as first-team selections. Coyle, who leads Montana with five goals and is tied for second in the Big Sky, was voted to the second team in 2019.

Center back Allie Larsen, who helped Montana allow just five goals in nine matches playing in front of Howard, was named second-team all-Big Sky.

Rita Lang and Taylor Stoeger, both multiple-goal scorers for the Grizzlies in their shortened spring season, were named honorable mention.

Howard, named honorable-mention all-Big Sky as a freshman and sophomore and second-team as a junior, entered the season with 26 career shutouts.

She broke the Big Sky record of 29 when Montana blanked Portland State 3-0 on March 28 in Missoula. She enters the postseason ranked 31st nationally with a goals-against average of 0.54.

Howard becomes only Montana’s second player to earn goalkeeper of the year honors, joining Kailey Norman (2016).

Adams, at holding midfielder, and Hansen, at outside back, play positions more defensive in nature and contributed to that list of shutouts. But both added to Montana’s scoring punch this season as well.

Montana outscored its opponents 19-5 during the regular season and played nine matches without getting shut out.

Adams, with eight points on three goals and two assists, ranked second only to Coyle in scoring.

Hansen, crosser of great passes and threat from end line to end line, had six assists entering the season. She added two more this spring and also scored her first two career goals.

Coyle scored a goal in more matches this season than those she didn’t. She has five, one off her career high despite playing a shortened season.

Her 19 career goals are tied for ninth in program history and are the most goals scored by a Grizzly since Erin Craig netted 20 while playing from 2009-12.

Montana will take the No. 1 seed from the Northwest Division into this week’s four-team Big Sky Conference tournament in Ogden, Utah.

The Grizzlies will face Northern Colorado, the No. 2 seed from the Southeast Division, at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

The winner of that match will face either Northern Arizona or Idaho, who play Thursday at noon, in the tournament championship match at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.