Cougars grab first round NCAA Tournament victory over Montana

WSU defeated University of Montana 5-1 Friday night in Pullman



Junior forward Morgan Weaver fights off Montana senior defender Taryn Miller as Weaver attempts to make her way towards the opposing goal Friday night at the Lower Soccer Field.

JOHN SPELLMAN, Evergreen reporter

In a year full of peaks and valleys for the WSU women’s soccer team, the lights were shining brightest Friday night at the Lower Soccer Field as the Cougars hosted University of Montana in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Cougars (13-5-1, 5-5-1) opened the game on a mission, dominating the time of possession to grab a commanding 5-1 win over the Grizzlies (7-9-6, 3-2-4) to advance to the second round of the tournament.

Head Coach Todd Shulenberger said the level of play they faced in the Pac-12 Conference helped them perform better in this moment.

“Credit to the girls, but credit to this conference as well,” he said. “[Montana is] a great team, don’t get me wrong. They did a great job this
season with what they did. But the Pac-12 is a different beast.”

WSU had several scoring chances early in the match, none finer than in the 23rd minute when the Cougars got their first corner kick of the game. This led to a shot from junior forward Morgan Weaver that was saved by Montana redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Claire Howard before she gave up a rebound that the Cougars were unable to put in the back of the net.

After numerous chances for the Cougar offense, they finally got a goal on the scoreboard in the 36th minute. Sophomore forward Brianna Alger tipped a shot into the net on a highly contested ball between her and a Montana defender. Freshman forward Hailey Smith got the assist on the play to give the Cougars the 1-0 lead.

That would be all the excitement in the first half as WSU led 1-0 going into the half. However, the second half would start with a bang in the 49th minute when Weaver curved a shot from the middle of the field past Howard to put WSU up two goals.

The goal was Weaver’s 13th of the season and was assisted by redshirt junior midfielder Shayna Whieldon.

The Cougars kept up the pressure on offense and they tacked on another goal in the 61st minute as redshirt junior forward Alysha Overland scored her third goal of the season when Smith hit a cross pass to Overland to give WSU a 3-0 advantage.

Smith tacked on another goal in the 64th minute to put WSU up by four goals and in complete control of this first round matchup. The Cougars grabbed their final goal in the 82nd minute when freshman midfielder Gracie Armstrong got her first collegiate goal on a shot that slipped in under the crossbar.

However, the Grizzles broke the shutout in the 85th minute as redshirt sophomore forward Kennedy Yost got a shot just past WSU redshirt junior goalkeeper Emma Dahline, after she came in for starting redshirt junior goalkeeper Rachel Thompson when the Cougars were well in control of the game.

That would be all the scoring during the game as the Cougars moved on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after a 5-1 victory over Montana.

Though it was an impressive outpour from the Cougar offense, WSU had an equally impressive performance from its defense, limiting the Grizzlies to only one goal and one shot on goal. Shulenberger was proud of his teams defensive play in the match.

“Our defense was outstanding tonight,” he said. “I challenged our defense a few weeks ago to get back on track and they did it. The offense picked it up at halftime, so we just need to keep up our defensive flow and offensive rhythm moving forward.”

The Cougars now wait to find out who they will play in the second round of the tournament next Friday. WSU will face the winner of the Georgetown University and Central Connecticut State University matchup.