(University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA - All the streaks that the teams carried into Friday afternoon’s soccer match at South Campus Stadium? They’ll continue on after Montana and Sacramento State played to a 0-0 draw.
The Hornets (8-1-6, 2-0-4 BSC) upped their unbeaten streak to 14 games, two shy of the Big Sky record, while the Grizzlies (5-5-5, 4-0-2 BSC) extended their unbeaten streak against Big Sky Conference opponents, one that stretches back to last season, to 13.
Montana is also unbeaten in its last nine matches on its home field.
The result won’t keep Griz coach Chris Citowicki awake on Friday night -- his team is still assured of being in at least a tie for first when the day’s matches have concluded and his team is one point closer to the postseason -- but he’ll remember a lot of missed opportunities.
Time after time Montana did everything right in its offensive buildup -- Taylor Hansen’s crosses are a work of art. It was just the knockout punch that was off on its timing, so it never did land.
The Grizzlies outshot the Big Sky’s highest-scoring team 18-9 but could never quite get the final touch right. So for the second straight match, Montana takes a scoreless tie.
“We created enough chances. The execution of the final shot was just not good enough today,” Citowicki said.
Montana put eight of its shots on goal, but Aaliyah Fesili was rarely tested in recording her seventh shutout of the season. Most balls went right to her.
She left the field after 110 minutes without a grass stain on her uniform.
“I asked (the team) after the match, how many times did their goalkeeper dive to save a ball today? Not once,” said Citowicki.
“I loved the chances we created. I loved the way we developed attacks. It opened them up and gave us chances to win the game. We just didn’t take them.”
Sacramento State had only previously been shut out this season one time in 14 matches, against Hawaii, and the Hornets had scored multiple goals in eight of their last 10 matches.
That offense was mostly held in check by a Montana defense that produced its fifth shutout in six league games.
“We just had to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Citowicki. “It was just keeping our shape in the back. We completely took them away from their game.”
Sacramento State created seven corner kicks to Montana’s three, but the Hornets would finish the match with just nine shots, only four on goal.
“All they were left with were set pieces because of our silly fouls,” added Citowicki. “Once we took that away, it was going to be very difficult for them to ever score against us.”
Sacramento State arrived in Missoula with 24 goals scored and leaves with the same total. The same is true for junior forward Kylee Kim-Bustillos, who leads the Big Sky with eight goals.
“I was super pumped knowing they had basically scored on everyone they’ve played so far,” said sophomore center back Caitlin Rogers.
“I knew our team is really good defensively and wouldn’t concede a goal, or if we did it would be a really strong fight. I woke up today super pumped because I knew it was going to be a good challenge.”
Montana limited Kim-Bustillos to a single shot in the 101 minutes she was on the field.
The shutout was the 24th of her career for junior goalkeeper Claire Howard, who moved into a tie for first in program history for career clean sheets.
Howard has a miniscule 0.16 goals-against average in league and a .957 save percentage, with just one goal allowed in 580 minutes.
Montana will play its final home match of the season on Sunday at noon when the Grizzlies host Portland State at South Campus Stadium.
The Vikings (4-10-0, 3-2-0 BSC) play a night match at Northern Colorado on Friday.