(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA -- The Montana soccer team, which will be trying to win its third consecutive regular-season title this fall, has been picked second in the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches’ poll, the league office announced on Wednesday morning.
The Grizzlies, who picked up a league-high four first-place votes, came in behind preseason favorite Northern Arizona, which had two first-place votes but more overall voting points.
Those two teams were scheduled to meet in the Big Sky tournament championship match in April before it was declared a no contest due to COVID issues within the NAU program. That gave Montana the tournament title and sent the Grizzlies to their fifth NCAA tournament.
Montana and Northern Arizona will open league facing each other in Flagstaff on Friday, Sept. 24.
Northern Colorado, which collected three first-place votes, was picked third, followed by Idaho in fourth. Those two teams, plus Montana and Northern Arizona, made up the Big Sky tournament field in Ogden in the spring.
Sacramento State was picked fifth, with Weber State, which collected the other first-place vote, and Eastern Washington tying for sixth.
Montana will face Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado (Oct. 10) and Idaho (Oct. 15), the other teams making up the top four in the poll, on the road.
Home matches will be against Sacramento State (Oct. 1), Portland State (Oct. 3), Weber State (Oct. 22) and Idaho State (Oct. 24).
The Grizzlies went 9-2-0 in the shortened spring season, the best winning percentage in program history.
Montana won the Big Sky’s Northwest Division, a one-time geographic splitting of the league’s teams because of COVID, with a 7-1 record.
The Grizzlies lost 1-0 to South Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament, in a match played in Wilson, N.C.
Montana, which opens its season with a home exhibition match on Sunday, the regular season at Creighton on Thursday, Aug. 16, returns six starters, a dozen letterwinners.
2021 Big Sky Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Northern Arizona (2 first-place votes) ... 71 points
2. Montana (4) ... 70
3. Northern Colorado (3) ... 66
4. Idaho ... 56
5. Sacramento State ... 48
t6. Weber State (1) --- 43
t6. Eastern Washington ... 43
8. Southern Utah ... 22
9. Portland State ... 17
10. Idaho State ... 14