As Montana senior forward Alexa Coyle prepared to take a pivotal free kick in UM’s game against Eastern Washington on April 11, fans, coaches and players from Eastern Washington were livid, yelling at Coyle and the referees. UM was up 2-1, but Eastern Washington had the momentum.
“In those moments I just focus on the ball,” said Coyle. “All year we practice to get it done in moments that we need to.”
Coyle took a swing at the ball and sent it whizzing past the goalkeeper and into the upper right side of the net. A true dagger.
“That's Alexa, pure confidence,” said UM head coach Chris Citowicki. “She was getting a lot of talking to from their players when she stepped up to take that and crushed it anyway.”
The goal helped UM win the game 3-1, two days after Montana lost the first game of its season to Eastern Washington in overtime, 3-2. Both games were win or go home for Eastern Washington, which played very emotionally, picking up many fouls as the game went on.
Montana opened up the game by scoring less than three minutes from kickoff when senior forward Mimi Eiden tapped in her first goal as a Griz. The score gave UM a 1-0 lead and set the tone for the game.
Six minutes into the game, Montana once again scored when redshirt junior midfielder Rita Lang headed in a goal off of a corner kick from senior midfielder Avery Adams. Lang’s goal gave the Griz a 2-0 lead early in the game.
At halftime, no more goals had been scored and the Griz remained up two.
In the second half, Eastern Washington's desperation began to show, as the Eagles relentlessly pushed the ball toward UM’s goal. Finally, Eastern Washington’s Taylor Matheny found the back of the net to narrow Montana’s lead to 2-1.
Later in the game a series of calls by the referees that led to Coyle’s penalty kick sent the players and coaches from Eastern Washington over the edge.
A player and a coach from Eastern Washington received yellow cards within a minute of each other. After Coyle’s goal, which put the Griz up 3-1, the players got even more heated.
Sariah Keister, an Eastern Washington player, received a red card and was ejected from the game. Then the Eagles team as a whole also received a red card.
When the final horn sounded, giving UM a lead and disqualifying Eastern Washington from the playoffs, Eastern Washington fans directed a chorus of boos toward the referees. An Eastern Washington coach also made sure his feelings were felt toward the officials.
The win helped Montana secure the number one seed in the upcoming Big Sky Conference Tournament, which will start on April 15. UM will take on Northern Colorado to open the tournament.
In UM’s last appearance in the conference tournament in 2019, the Griz were upset by Northern Colorado.
“That Northern Colorado loss has been fuel,” said Citowicki. “It will not happen again in the playoffs.”
The game was also senior day for Montana. Seniors Adams, Catie Buck, Raye Burton, Eiden, Claire Howard, Brooke Johnson and Lang were all recognized before the game.
“Thank you Griz Nation for the unbelievable support throughout my career,” Lang, who scored UM’s second goal, wrote in a letter to Griz faithful.