Griz settle for draw in Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. — Montana scored three times, typically a winning output, but Nebraska-Omaha found the equalizer in the 86th minute and the Grizzlies had to settle for a 3-3 draw against the Mavericks Friday afternoon.

Senior India Watne put Montana (2-2-3) up 1-0 in the ninth minute. UNO (2-4-1) scored twice within a six-minute window midway through the first half and led 2-1 at the break.

Junior Tyler Adair tied the match at 2-2 in the 80th minute, and sophomore Mackenzie Akins put the Grizzlies back ahead in the 83rd minute.

Nebraska-Omaha’s equalizer came with just 4:08 left in regulation, and the teams played a pair of scoreless 10-minute overtime periods.

Though they limited the Mavericks to just eight shots, it was an uncharacteristic defensive effort for the Grizzlies. Montana had not allowed a single first-half goal this season and hadn’t been behind at the half in its last 17 matches. The Grizzlies also had not allowed three goals to an opponent in more than a year.

“We came out fine and scored early, but then we lost focus defensively,” UM coach Mark Plakorus said. “We weren’t sharp in our movements and we were not communicating very well.”

The tie spoiled Montana’s second straight impressive offensive outing. The Grizzlies outshot the Mavericks 26-8, held a 9-4 advantage in corner kicks and scored three goals for the second time in five days.

Watne’s goal, which came on an assist from Akins, was her second in two games, and Adair, who was assisted by sophomore Taylor Rhodes and redshirt junior Stephanie Carl in a scramble in front of the UNO goal, scored for the third straight match.

But nobody has been more of a weapon than Akins lately. The reigning Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week has two goals and four assists the last three matches. She’s played a role in six of the Grizzlies’ seven goals during that time.

Her could-have-been game-winner in the 83rd minute came unassisted when Akins took off on a breakaway down the right side and came up with her fifth career goal.

But less than four minutes later Nebraska-Omaha created a dangerous corner kick. Montana cleared the corner but did not close out on the Maverick who came up with it. The ball was played back in to Melanie McCormick, who scored the match’s final goal.

“Attacking-wise we did a pretty good job. It’s nice to get some rhythm,” said Plakorus. “But we can’t just be a team that attacks. You have to be able to defend well, too.

“We made it hard on ourselves, but I’m proud that we responded and got back in it and gave ourselves a chance to come away with the win.”

It was the third time this season Montana has not been able to hold a second-half lead. Air Force scored in the 68th minute to forge a 1-1 draw with the Grizzlies in the season opener, and two weeks ago at Loyola Marymount, the Lions scored goals in the 75th and 84th minutes to rally for a 2-1 victory.

Montana lost 2012 Big Sky Conference Defensive MVP Lauren Costa to graduation and has had senior center back Alyssa Nystrom for just 173 minutes over three matches this season because of injury. That’s left a number of callow players, some out of their normal position, to be tested by fire.

“This is the third game this year we haven’t been able to hold a late lead, but that’s part of us growing as a team,” Plakorus said.

“I’ve been surprised how well the back-line players have done for the most part, but we still need to learn how to be focused game in and game out.”

Akins, with eight, took as many shots as Nebraska-Omaha, and she put four on goal while playing 101 minutes. Adair took six shots and also put four on goal while playing 86 minutes. Watne took four shots and played 82 minutes.

Junior Brooke Moody, who continues to join Rhodes at center back instead of playing on the outside, was on the field all 110 minutes.

Senior goalkeeper Kendra McMillen faced eight shots, seven of which were on goal, and allowed a season-high three goals.

Montana will face one of its toughest opponents of the season Sunday when the Grizzlies meet Creighton at noon (MT) in Omaha. The Bluejays (5-2-0) won their fifth-straight match Friday, 4-0 over South Dakota. During its winning streak, Creighton has outscored its opponents 21-2.

“My job is to get the team focused again,” said Plakorus, “because we play a really good team on Sunday.”

—  Montana Sports Information

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