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UVU soccer: Wolverines break from league play to host Montana

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OREM, Utah – Coming off a 2-0 win at Houston Baptist last Saturday to gain sole possession of first place in the Great West Conference, the Utah Valley University women's soccer team steps away from league play to welcome Montana of the Big Sky Conference. The non-conference fixture is slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday at Clyde Field.

The trip to Houston was UVU's (6-10-1) lone match on last week's schedule – a matchup that pitted the last two GWC tournament champions and the only remaining unbeatens in league play.

Both sides battled to a scoreless draw through intermission, but senior Regan Benson put the Wolverines out in front in the 59th minute with a goal from a nearly impossible angle on the right side, flying the ball past the Husky keeper and into the side netting.

Sophomore Lexi Robison, who assisted on Benson's goal, tacked on an insurance score in the 77th minute, driving a shot into the top shelf from just inside the 18.

With the win, UVU holds a perfect 4-0-0 conference mark with just one league game left. The Wolverines can clinch the regular season title with a Delaware State loss over the weekend or with a victory over DSU when the Hornets visit Orem on Monday in the regular season finale.

Benson's goal against HBU was her team-leading seventh on the season. Robison's tally placed her alongside juniors Natalie Baker and Haley Curtis, all with three goals.

Robison also joined defenders Kelsey Cook and Lexi Dunn for a three-way tie for the team-lead in assists with three.

Saturday's win improved junior goalkeeper Lauren Sack to 4-5-0 on the season as she picked up her third shutout on the year. Her seven saves against the Huskies gave her 61 for the season at a 1.54 goals against average. Sack was rewarded for her performance at HBU as she was named GWC Defensive Player of the Week Tuesday. It was the second time Sack has claimed the award this season.

Friday's match stands as the regular season finale for Montana (10-6-2, 6-2-1 Big Sky), which wrapped up a share of the Big Sky regular season title with a pair of wins last week.

The Grizzlies nabbed a 1-0 victory over Southern Utah on Friday before defeating Northern Arizona by the same score Sunday.

The victories pushed UM into a three-way tie with Idaho State and Portland State atop the Big Sky standings. The Grizzlies will face PSU in the opening round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament, which begins Nov. 2.

UM has won its last five contests, all by shutout. In all, the Grizzlies have kept opponents off the scoreboard 10 times this season.

Senior forward Erin Craig's six goals and four assists lead UM, followed by four more goals from sophomore Paytyn Wheeler. Mackenzie Akins, a freshman midfielder, also has four assists to go along with two tallies on the season.

Senior goalkeeper Kristen Hoon has taken every result for the Grizzlies this season, stopping 59 shots and allowing just 0.88 goals against per contest.

UVU holds a 2-1-0 edge in the short series, sweeping both contests last season. The Wolverines won by a 2-1 score in Missoula last season, scoring the game-winner with just nine seconds left. Then, in the return leg in Orem, UVU scored three times and held off UM, 3-2.

Current Wolverines Curtis and McKell Salmon scored in the series last year. Sack picked up both wins a year ago.

Friday night is also UVU's Senior Night as five Wolverine seniors will be honored. This season's senior class had a hand in UVU's most successful era in school history. Over the last four years, the Wolverines have won two GWC tournament titles and a regular season championship.

Defenders Cook and Nicole Slater and forwards Benson, Shalayne Janis and Jaime Lyons will be recognized Friday night.

UVU will have the weekend to prepare for its final match of the regular season, a Monday night meeting with Delaware State. The Hornets were the only GWC team to defeat the Wolverines in 2011. That match is set for 7 p.m.

Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.