COLORADO SPRINGS — Jamie Simon, a redshirt freshman, scored her first collegiate goal and sophomore Kailey Norman collected her second career shutout as the Montana soccer team opened its season Friday evening with a 1-0 victory over Air Force at Cadet Soccer Stadium.
Simon’s goal came in the 74th minute and gave the Grizzlies a victory in a match in which they created the more dangerous opportunities despite getting outshot 15-14.
“I thought the girls played really well and that our effort was really, really good,” said fourth-year UM coach Mark Plakorus, who improved to 3-0-1 in season openers. “We made good decisions today.
“Air Force is a really good team, and we scored a good goal to beat them, so I’m excited with the way we started the year.”
Simon’s winning shot, deftly played from 20 yards out, found the small space between the crossbar and the outstretched glove of Air Force keeper Meghan Strang. The ball deflected off the bottom of the crossbar and over the goal line for Simon’s first collegiate goal.
Simon, who has suffered ACL injuries to both knees, was playing a competitive match for the first time in three years.
“To not play for three years and then come back and score a goal and play really well the entire match was pretty cool for Jamie,” said Plakorus.
Plakorus started a pair of true freshmen Friday — defender Ashlee Pedersen and forward Hallie Widner — and played six true freshmen overall. Of the 19 players who saw action, a dozen were underclassmen.
Montana’s goal was an all-freshman combination. Widner used some nice footwork to retain possession of the ball on the left sideline. She played it to Maddy Emerick, who touched the ball to Allie Lucas, who passed it to Simon and was credited with the assist.
“Our new players did really well today,” Plakorus said. “I couldn’t be happier with their performance. They got great experience, but better than that was they didn’t get overwhelmed by their first college game.”
Air Force took 15 shots and put nine of them on goal, but Norman was rarely tested in her fifth career start. Montana’s back line, made up of almost all underclassmen, forced the Falcons to take most of their shots from nonthreatening distances.
“Our back line did a great job of keeping the ball in front of us,” Plakorus said. “We gave up shots, but they were all from outside the box.
“And Kailey was solid. It was nice to see her play with that much confidence and that much presence. That really boosts our team.”
It was the second career victory for Norman, who posted a 3-0 shutout last fall at North Dakota.
Montana will face Wyoming Sunday at 1 p.m. at Laramie, Wyo. The Cowgirls lost their season opener Friday night, 3-1 at Kansas.
Sunday’s game can be watched free of charge through the Mountain West Conference’s website. A link to the broadcast can be found on the soccer schedule page at GoGriz.com.
— Montana Sports Information