It was a 10-minute party on Sunday afternoon in Missoula as South Campus Stadium raucously celebrated Maysa Walters’ first career goal as a Grizzly.
Her heel-flick finish in the 80th minute gave Montana a 1-0 lead on Fresno State and had the home side on its way to its first signature win of the season, over one of the better teams in the Mountain West Conference.
But there were still 11 minutes left in the match, which is why the celebrating was short-lived and didn’t extend to the postgame.
The Bulldogs broke hearts from bench to grandstand when they scored the equalizer on a well-earned goal with just 53 seconds left in regulation that turned a Grizzly victory into a 1-1 draw.
It would have been Montana’s first-ever win over Fresno State.
“Kudos to them for hanging on and not giving up, but we should have closed it out,” said coach Chris Citowicki. “I think we deserved a little bit more, but that’s on us for not closing it out.
“The soccer gods didn’t bless us that way today.”
Walters’ late goal didn’t have to be Montana’s first of the afternoon. Skyleigh Thompson redirected a cross just wide of goal in the first half and Ava Samuelson put a shot off the right post in the second.
The team that didn’t have any sort of punch to it in Thursday’s 0-0 deadlock with Colorado State had plenty on Sunday but only one goal to show for it.
“I’m happy overall how we played the game. We created a lot of good opportunities,” said Citowicki. “We should have taken them. Because we didn’t, it allows them to stay in the game, and they scored a really nice goal at the end.”
Montana made it a mostly one-sided match through the first 30 minutes on Sunday, taking the game’s first seven shots and holding Fresno State without an attempt until the 33rd minute.
But there was nothing to show for it on the scoreboard as the teams went to the locker room scoreless.
It was a more balanced match in the second half until Walters broke the tie at 78:39.
Ava Samuelson found space on the left side of the field and played the ball across the box to Kayla Rendon Bushmaker.
The speedy freshman tracked it down and sent it back toward the goal, where Walters allowed the ball to nearly pass her by before she heeled it inside the far post from five yards out.
“It felt really good to get one, especially with the opportunities we had. We came out with such good energy today compared to our last game,” she said.
“We had a totally good performance until the last minute of the game, when they kind of broke us back there, but it’s something to learn from.”
For as disappointing as the equalizer was, it was a well-executed finish by the Bulldogs.
Bailee Beach, on the right side, played a ball to Kaelyn Miller, who one-touched it past Camellia Xu and toward the front of the goal. The ball found Megan Galvin, who one-touched it into the open net.
Montana outshot its seventh opponent in eight matches this season and created more corner kicks for the sixth time. The Grizzlies also owned 54 percent of the possession on Sunday.
While the stomach punch of the final minute will be what lingers, the opening 89 minutes shouldn’t be forgotten.
“The energy from the bench to the subs to the players on the field, to people making 120(-yard) sprints just to get back on defense. That’s exactly what you want,” said Walters.
“We’re almost into conference now, so I think that’s a good overall performance moving forward.”
Montana will play at Boise State (3-2-2) on Thursday at 5 p.m. before hosting North Dakota State (4-2-2) next Sunday at 11 a.m. in the Grizzlies’ final nonconference match.