Friday, August 29, 2014

Gonzaga blanked by Montana and Washington in doubleheader

Montana and Washington picked up shutout wins in Spokane Friday (Photos: Gerald Barnhart)
It was a tough day at home for the Gonzaga soccer program as the women fell 2-0 to the visiting Montana Grizzlies in the afternoon contest and the cross-state foe Washington Huskies, ranked 4 and 6 in the national polls, rolled to a 4-0 victory in the second half of the doubleheader.

WOMEN: Gonzaga vs Montana

Chloe Torres set up a pair of Grizzly goals by Mackenzie Akins and Allie Simon in a five-minute span to propel Montana to the win. The result ended a nine-game losing streak at the hands of the Bulldogs for Montana, which had won the first dozen meetings between the two schools.

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"I was pretty pleased with how my team competed. We stuck to our game plan very, very well," said Montana coach Mark Plakorus. "Just really proud of the young team I have because Gonzaga is a really, really good team and for us to be able to perform at that level is very good for us."

Neither team saw many threatening scoring chances in the back-and-forth contest, but Montana was able to find some space out on the flanks several times throughout the match and capitalized on two such occasions.

In the 20th minute, Torres popped the ball out of the congested midfield to an unmarked Akins slightly out to the left with plenty of room to run about 40 yards out from goal. The junior drove to the area where her shot from about 14 yards found the back of the net after slightly deflecting off the arm of the onrushing goalkeeper Christie Tombari as she dropped to challenge the effort.

A little less than five minutes later Torres sent a ball from the left side across the box to a wide open Simon with acres of space. The senior calmly placed the angled shot from about 16 yards out past Tombari to double the lead.

From that point, the Grizzlies continued to clamp down on the Gonzaga attack and stood strong, allowing very few opportunities at a comeback.

Plakorus keeps team calm for second half
"We were very disciplined defensively, especially with how young we are. I got all freshman and sophomores except for the one senior centerback," said Plakorus.  "I just was really proud of them and their focus and their communication - they stayed organized and we were able to keep them in front of us and really not get them too many good looks, which is very difficult to do because, like I said, they are very good."

Montana had opened the non-league slate last weekend on the road with a split against MWC opponents, edging Air Force 1-0 and falling two days later 1-0 at Wyoming. Things don't get any easier as they prepare for the Big Sky campaign, traveling to face Washington State, arguably the best women's program in the region, on Sunday before leaving the northwest again to play Houston Baptist, Texas and Missouri in a seven day span.

"We hope that we can just keep building on this. Our goal is to just keep getting better than we were before, and I thought we took a big step forward today, which is good. We'll just try to get them rested and get 'em down to Pullman to see what we can do on Sunday."

MEN: Gonzaga vs Washington

The second half of the doubleheader did not get any better for the Bulldogs. With several freshman in the lineup, the NCAA quarterfinalists from a year ago took advantage Darwin Jones leading the effort.

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Jones ripped a 25 yard free kick just over the goal six minutes into the game, serving as a warning.

In what was a fairly even contest most of the first half, it was an own goal in the 20th minute that left the Zags in a hole they couldn't pull out of. A low ball driven into the box led to the mistaken goal. Then three dead ball goals finished rounded out the rest of the Husky goals.

Gonzaga made a pair of great stops 10 minutes later only to have a penalty seconds later do them in. Jones gathered the ball when a long ball played forward got away from the awaiting Gonzaga defender. Goalkeeper Chris Lowrimore made a great play to immediately come out and block his shot, but the ball remained alive around the six and within the frenzy Fischer Gallinger was able to clear the ball of the line with an acrobatic volley. Seconds later though Lowrimore was called for tripping up Jones, who converted from the spot.

In the 75th minute a James Moberg free kick from deep on the right flank found Josh Heard at the far side of the six, where he one-timed the ball inside the left post to push the lead to three.

Clark Phillips nearly spoiled Spencer Richey's shutout with a 20-yard rocket off the crossbar with the game finishing up moments later with Jones converting another penalty after a jersey pull brought the attack to a halt in the 90th minute.

Next for Gonzaga

The Gonzaga women are at home again Sunday at 1:00 with visiting Idaho, coached by former Zags assistant Derek Pittman, while the men are on the road for the next four contests over the next two weeks.