MISSOULA — The Griz soccer team’s list of Montana-produced players grew to seven recently when Jess Henning decided to join the program. The goalkeeper and 2014 Sentinel High grad accepted admissions to Montana this spring and will be a freshman with the Grizzlies in the fall.
“We always want to have Montana kids on the team, so this is a win-win situation for everybody,” said UM coach Mark Plakorus. “And it’s great when that person is also a Missoula kid who’s been around the Griz her whole life and understands everything that goes with being a Griz.”
Henning was a Class AA All-State selection last fall and the Spartans’ MVP. She is a product of the Missoula Strikers program and won a U16 state championship with the club.
Henning, academic All-State in two sports, was also a member of Sentinel’s basketball program that has won the last three Class AA state championships.
“Jess has been at our camps, so we had a bit of a relationship with her,” said Plakorus. “We explained what we were looking for, and she was pretty excited about the opportunity.
“She has a lot of potential because she is such a good athlete, and she’s an intelligent player who picks things up very quickly. She works incredibly hard, so she has the chance to develop into a good goalkeeper.”
Montana opened the 2013 season with four goalkeepers on its roster: senior Kendra McMillen, junior Kelsey Carlson and freshmen Kailey Norman and Maddie Vincent.
Vincent is a Butte native who played high school soccer in Iowa.
McMillen, who played a bulk of the team’s minutes in goal last fall, graduated out of the program, and Carlson underwent career-ending shoulder surgery. That left just Norman, who played in seven matches last fall, and Vincent, who redshirted.
“At first we thought about going with two goalkeepers, but the more we talked about it as a staff, the more we felt like having another keeper would be a good thing,” Plakorus said.
“Not only is it someone who can push the other two, but it will also give the keepers a break from taking too many reps at practice. The last thing you want to do is beat up your own goalkeepers.”
Henning will be the Grizzlies’ fourth incoming freshman from Montana. Maddy Emerick of Billings, Allie Lucas of Billings and Lilly Moore of Hamilton all signed National Letters of Intent in February.
Trae Rocheleau of Missoula will be a junior in the fall, and Tess Brenneman of Kalispell and Savannah Witt of Billings will be redshirt sophomores.
“Having these players on the team gives the younger girls in our state something to aim for and keep pushing for,” Plakorus said. “If players commit to being the best they can be, they might have an opportunity to play at this level.”
— Montana Sports Information