MISSOULA, Mont. - Despite posting a season high in shots and firing twice as many shots on goal as its opponents, Utah Valley University dropped a 1-0 decision to Houston Baptist on Saturday evening in its first match at the Montana Cup.
HBU's Natalie Hager tallied the game-winner in the 75th minute of the Great West Conference reunion, stunning a UVU side that largely controlled play and was unlucky to come up empty on the scoreboard.
"I was pleased with our attack and I thought we created a number of good scoring chances," UVU head coach Brent Anderson said. "We were a bit unlucky with a few shots hitting the crossbar. But HBU played a well-organized game today and made the most of their opportunity."
Meeting the Huskies (1-4-0) for the first time in a non-conference setting, the Wolverines (1-4-0) ended the game with 19 total shots - their highest total of the season. Of those 19 attempts, 10 were on target and a pair more painfully slammed off the crossbar.
UVU's most dangerous chances came over the first 45 minutes where it recorded 11 shots and forced six saves from HBU goalkeeper Stephanie Castellon. Natalie Baker and Taylor Kirk set the attacking tone as each notched a shot on goal within the contest's first eight minutes. Baker would go on to lead the Wolverines with six total attempts.
Twelve minutes and two more shots on goal later, it seemed that Kim Stratford put UVU in front when she was left in space at the top of the box. But the junior's left-footed drive met the bottom side of the crossbar and returned harmlessly into play.
The feat was duplicated fifteen minutes later, this time off the right foot of McKell Salmon. Her bending shot from the right side of the box had a line to the upper-90 at the far post, but the woodwork was cruel again, denying the effort and preserving the 0-0 score line.
Still, the Wolverines' most excruciating miss may have come in the 43rd minute. Lexi Robison uncorked a right-footed blast from 18 yards that looked all but destined for the top left corner, but HBU's Castellon utilized every inch of her outstretched frame to push the shot around the post.
"I was happy with the play of Lexi (Robison) and Kim (Stratford) in the midfield," Anderson said. "They were both very dangerous going forward with the ball and were unfortunate not to score."
An unkind zero hung on UVU's side of the scoreboard through the intermission, but the Wolverines maintained its upper hand for much of the second period. But that momentum was undone in the 75th minute when a scramble and loose ball in the box left Wolverine goalkeeperLauren Sack out of position. Hager was there to clean up the mess with a shot into the open net for her first tally of the season.
A frantic effort to equalize saw UVU create a few more chances in the final third, but the final connection was missing as the Wolverines suffered their first loss to the Huskies since 2010.
Haley Curtis attempted four shots on the evening, with two on target, followed by a pair of tries Robison, Salmon and Jamie Brown. Lexi Dunn was the only Wolverine to play all 90 minutes as keepersJessica Duffin and Sack split Saturday's minutes with each playing a half. Duffin went untested while Sack recorded three saves.
Utah Valley wraps up its time in Missoula on Monday when it faces host Montana at 5 p.m. It will be the fifth time in the last four seasons that the two schools have met, and the Grizzlies own a 3-1-0 advantage. UM topped HBU 1-0 on Thursday night in the opening match of the Montana Cup.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.