Griz soccer hosts Montana Cup

The Montana soccer team will play Houston Baptist and Utah Valley in the coming days as the Grizzlies host the Montana Cup at South Campus Stadium.

Montana will face Houston Baptist Thursday at 5 p.m. in the tournament’s first match. HBU will take on Utah Valley Saturday at 5 p.m., and the Grizzlies and Wolverines will play Monday at 5 p.m.

The tournament was originally scheduled to be a four-team tournament that had doubleheaders on Friday and Sunday, but the fourth team pulled out, and a replacement could not be found.

Live coverage: All three matches of the Montana Cup will have streaming video through the All-Access page at and all three will have live stats, which can be accessed through the soccer schedule page.

Award-winning play-by-play artist Shaun Radley will call the action for the Montana matches on Thursday and Monday.

Griz rewind: Montana is 0-2-2 through two weekends of regular-season matches. The Grizzlies came up with ties against Air Force and Wyoming two weekends ago at the Kickoff Invitational at South Campus Stadium.

Last weekend Montana traveled to California and dropped a 2-1 decision to Loyola Marymount and a 2-0 result to Cal State Fullerton.

In Friday’s match, redshirt junior Ashley Robertson scored her second goal of the season in the 62nd minute off an assist from senior Mary Makris to put the Grizzlies up 1-0, but the Lions scored the equalizer in the 75th minute and the game-winner in the 84th minute.

In Sunday’s match, the Titans put 25 shots on Montana, 10 of which were on goal, and finally broke through in the 65th minute to break a scoreless tie. The insurance goal came just more than five minutes later, in the 71st minute.

We’ve been here before: Montana and its opponents have been tied 0-0 at the half every match this season.

Scoring trend continues: Both of Montana’s goals this season have come in the second half. Under third-year coach Mark Plakorus, the Grizzlies have scored 17 first-half goals and 37 goals after halftime.

Scoring drought repeat: Everyone remembers how last season ended, with a seven-match winning streak leading into the Big Sky Conference tournament championship match, which Montana lost in a shootout, and the season’s 12 victories.

Few remember that Montana had a tough time scoring early in the season. In 2012 the Grizzlies were shut out in three of their first four matches and had just three goals through the opening five matches.

Through four matches this season, Montana has produced two one-goal games and been shut out twice.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise, because the teams we’ve played are very good. It’s not like we’re playing teams that we could just run over,” Plakorus said.

“They are teams that are very athletic and pose a lot of problems, so you have to be sharp and spot-on with things, and in the early season that’s hard to do. And we’ve been a little bit unlucky as well.”

More on the Montana Cup field: With two opponents coming in with a combined record of 1-6, it should be two easy wins for the Grizzlies. Or not.  Sure, Houston Baptist is 0-3, and Utah Valley is 1-3, but those six combined losses? All have been by a single goal, with two of the defeats coming in overtime.

Houston Baptist lost one-goal games on the road to open the season at Tulsa and North Texas, and on Sunday lost 2-1 in overtime to TCU. Utah Valley started the season 0-3, with one-goal losses to UTEP, Utah State and Weber State (in overtime). On Tuesday the Wolverines had an impressive 4-2 win at Idaho State, which along with Portland State was the preseason Big Sky Conference favorite.

“I wanted to make sure the teams we played leading up to conference were going to challenge us to be better every week and that we were going to have to prepare for different styles of play and different types of teams,” Plakorus said.

“So far we’ve had a good mix of teams that provide different challenges for us, and this week is going to be no different. I used to play against Houston Baptist every year when I was at TCU, and (coach) Misty (Jones) does a great job with them.

“We’ve faced Utah Valley three times in my first two years, and our games with them have all been great ones. They are a very good team, a very athletic team.

“It’s a thing where we have to come ready to play both matches, but that’s what I want. I always want to have to play at our best”

History: Montana and Houston Baptist are playing for the first time. … Montana and Utah Valley have met four times, the first in 2006 when the Grizzlies won 3-0 at Wyoming’s tournament. … The teams met twice in 2011, in Plakorus’s first season at Montana. The Wolverines won 2-1 at Missoula on a goal at 89:51, and they won a few weeks later at Orem, Utah, 3-2. … Last season Montana won 1-0 at Orem on Paytyn Wheeler’s goal in the 44th minute as part of the Grizzlies’ seven-match winning streak. It was the only loss for Utah Valley in its final nine matches in 2012.

On the move: Both Houston Baptist and Utah Valley are playing in new conference this season after playing in the Great West Conference in 2012. The Huskies are first-year members of the Southland Conference and were picked fifth in the 13-team preseason coaches’ poll.

The Wolverines are a first-year member of the Western Athletic Conference and were picked second in the seven-team preseason coaches’ poll.

Home unbeaten streak on the line: Montana has a nine-match (4-0-5) unbeaten streak at South Campus Stadium, the best streak in program history. The Grizzlies went 1-0-1 in their final two home matches in 2011, finished 3-0-2 in 2012 and are 0-0-2 this season.

Upcoming: Montana will play at Nebraska-Omaha on Friday, Sept. 13, and at Creighton on Sunday, Sept. 15.

— Montana Sports Information