Even though Grizzly soccer freshman Hallie Widner was the Big Sky Conference co-offensive Player of the Week last week, she still has freshman duties. At practice, Widner and other freshmen are in charge of filling the soccer balls with air. Not too much, not too little, but just right.
"We tease her and ask her to teach us how she does everything," said Widner's roommate, freshman Allie Lucas. "We always ask her to rub off on us a little bit. We joke around with her about how good she is."
Widner doesn't like to talk about what she's accomplished on the field. The numbers do it for her.
Widner has started in all 13 of the team's games this fall. Her first collegiate goal came in the fifth game of the season against Houston Baptist University in the 73rd minute. She's scored four goals since for a team-leading five, and is second in shots with 21.
Head coach Mark Plakorus started looking at Widner as a potential Grizzly two and a half years ago. He was impressed with the 5-foot-5-inch forward's interaction with teammates, skills, soccer intelligence and how she positioned herself on the field. Widner was also humble, the trait that stood out most to Plakorus.
This year's freshmen class is stacked with talent and contributed strongly to the the Grizzlies' 4-0-0 BSC record. The class came to preseason physically fit, so the team jumped into tactics right away. When older players started getting hurt, Widner and her teammates filled in the holes.
The Idaho native was recruited by several schools, including Boise State. But she chose the University of Montana because she liked Missoula, the coaches and the team chemistry. She said her club soccer teams were also close-knit, so that was an important element in the decision.
On top of transitioning from high school to college life, Widner had to deal with changes in the game.
"Everyone just hits everyone else so hard," Widner said. "I've gotten knocked down my fair share. Mark warned me that I would get hit a few times so I kind of expected it, but it still was a little bit of a shock."
As a freshman, Widner said she didn't expect too many playing minutes. She also came in with the mentality that everyone else would be better than her, so it was her job to practice as hard as possible.
Others have noticed Widner's work. On the first day of preseason, senior defender Brooke Moody was defending Widner in a team scrimmage. Widner made her work hard, but Moody was excited to have a forward that challenged her.
She said Widner brings joy and energy to the field. For Moody, she's also like the little sister she never had.
"She makes you just happy and she's always smiling," Moody said. "We have the passion for soccer, like everyone else does, but one day she came up to me after a game and was like 'I really admire you as a player.' That touched my heart because she does the same for me."
She's only a freshman, but Lucas sees Widner only going up.
"I think with the coaching staff and the way they are, I don't see her plateauing at all," Lucas said. "If she's like this as a freshman, I can't even imagine how good of a player she'll be as a senior. It's exciting to think about."