(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)
PULLMAN, Wash. — The Montana soccer team’s season came to a close with a 3-0 loss to Washington State on a damp Saturday night in Pullman in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
The Cougars (14-2-4) scored the game-winner on a header off a set piece in the 37th minute, then added two more goals late in the second half.
Washington State advances to face No. 3 seed Tennessee next weekend in the round of 32.
“I felt like we played well. (Washington State) did what it was supposed to do. Their job was to beat us today. Our job was to keep it close and try to sneak one in,” said Griz coach Chris Citowicki. “I feel like we did a very good job of that. We hung around for as long as we possibly could. I’m very proud of the team for that.”
Washington State took the first four shots of the match and outshot Montana 20-2 overall, but it was the Grizzlies’ first shot, in the 25th minute that had the potential to change everything.
Ali Monroe was played a ball through the box that she put off the right post from 16 yards out.
It wasn’t to be, and Washington State opened the scoring 10 minutes later when the Cougars played a free kick into the box, where Marin Whieldon headed it over Griz goalkeeper Camellia Xu.
Montana (13-6-1) had a second golden chance in the 71st minute, when the match was still 1-0.
Sami Siems touched a through ball to Molly Massman on the left side. She was bumped off her run just long enough for WSU goalkeeper Nadia Cooper to come out and disrupt the play.
They were the type of chances Montana wasn’t able to create in April, when the Grizzlies lost 1-0 to South Carolina in the NCAA tournament.
Washington State made it 2-0 in the 79th minute on a penalty kick, 3-0 in the 83rd minute on a shot from in front of goal.
It was a typical bittersweet season-ending game, the end of the road for seniors that are hard to see go balanced with the optimism of what can be once again next fall.
Eight of Montana’s 11 starters will be back next season, as well as four of the players who saw minutes off the bench.
As for those seniors, they were on teams that made three NCAA tournaments. For as good as Montana has been over the decades, no other Grizzlies can make that claim.
“If your seniors are going to go out, this is how it’s going to be, in the NCAA tournament, throwing everything we can at a very good team, keeping it close, trying to win,” said Citowicki.
“We’ve got players who can play and are young and can handle this level. It’s good for them to see this and experience this and bring it back next year and try to do it again.”