Saturday, November 3, 2012

MSUB reaches GNAC Final; Montana, Idaho State to meet for Big Sky title

Shot from Richter (left) led to MSU-Billings winner from Mancilla (right) in GNAC semifinal
Montana State University-Billings upset second-seeded Seattle Pacific in the semifinals of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Thursday evening while Idaho State and Montana advanced from their respective semifinals Friday afternoon.

Megan Lindsay, Seattle Pacific
Though they were the lower seed, the Yellowjackets came into the GNAC playoff opener with some hope as they were the only team to hand SPU a loss in the conference campaign this year, registering the victory in the conference opener in Montana before the Falcons went on to go 13 straight unbeaten in league play, finishing the season with a win over top seed Western Washington – a warning shot that has proven meaningless now a week later. 

The MSU-Billings defense did well to shut down the hometown Falcons attack led by Megan Lindsay (Spokane, WA) on the night and found what proved to be the deciding goal in the 66th minute when Jaucelyn Richter (Billings, MT) sent a shot off the post that came back out to sophomore defender Jessie Mancilla, who put it away for her first career goal.  – MORE  

MSU-Billings reshman goalkeeper Aiko Johnson finished the night with five saves, setting up a Saturday showdown with Jamie Arthurs (Richland, WA), the conference’s career shutout record holder that led Western Washington to a 2-0 victory over Western Oregon in the other semifinal contest. – MORE   

The Vikings dominated the two previous meetings this season between the two sides, posting 3-0 and 2-0 wins.
Erin Craig, Montana

The Grizzlies kicked off the Big Sky tournament with a quick score from Erin Craig (Great Falls, MT) just six minutes in against Portland State, one of the other two teams to share the regular season title with Montana.  Eight minutes later Craig saw a second goal denied by the crossbar, but the ball fell to Mary Makris (Emigrant, MT), who finished to double the lead.

Two minutes after Montana’s India Watne sent a shot off the crossbar Amanda Howie found Daniela Solis in the 34th minute to cut the deficit in half before the intermission, but Makris restored the two-goal advantage 11 minutes into the second half when she set up Mackenzie Akins with a through ball.

Howie would bring the fourth-seeded Vikings back within one with a strike in the 72nd minute, but that was all Portland State, 2-0 winners in the regular season meeting between the two, could muster in the rally attempt.  – MORE 

In the second half of the semifinal doubleheader the top-seeded Idaho State Bengals and Weber State went scoreless until the visitors stunned ISU in the 57th minute with a go-ahead goal from Chansi Crompton. 

Amanda Ellsworth, ISU
It looked like the fourth-seeded Wildcats, who won the regular season meeting 1-0 between the two, were going to register the upset, but Amanda Ellsworth came to the rescue with less than three minutes left on the clock to send the contest to overtime, and ultimately, penalties.

In the shootout, freshman keeper Sheridan Hapsic came up huge for the Bengals, making two stops to her counterpart’s one, allowing Rachel Strawn to knock in the winning attempt in the fifth round for the 4-3 decision from the spot.  – MORE 

In their previous meeting this season the two played to a 1-1 stalemate in Montana to open the conference campaign. The Bengals took the lead in the 58th minute when Strawn took advantage of a defensive turnover and struck the ball into the upper right corner. Idaho State was on the verge of a victory when a loose ball was collected by Craig and sent to Paytyn Wheeler for the finish with just over a minute remaining in regulation.