Montana State edges out Montana to hold onto Copper Cup

The Montana Grizzlies lost the sixth annual Copper Cup to the Montana State Bobcats 14-9 on April 6 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. Montana has dropped its last four games against the Cats.

Photo Courtesy: Sally Johnson

Photo Courtesy: Sally Johnson

Montana edged out MSU in the first quarter 4-1, but couldn’t hang on after the Cats found its groove on offense and pounded away 13 goals in three quarters.

“I think the score of that game is accurate for how the game transpired. It was evenly contested, but they had a few more opportunities that they were able to capitalize on,” Head coach Tucker Sargent said. “This is a game of runs but what you want to prevent is them scoring multiple goals in a row, you got to go out and get the next one.”

Montana kicked the scoring off in the first quarter with a goal by attackman Jimmy Pierce who bounced off a couple defenders en route to finding the back of the net. That goal was followed up by a tic-tac-toe goal. Carson Smith dished a pass off to Pierce who found Miguel Generoso on the back door.

Carson Smith and Generoso both found goals before the Cats answered back late in the first quarter to bring it to 4-1. The script flipped after MSU’s first goal as the Cats scored six in the second quarter. Montana’s lone goal came from Hayden Smith who received a pass from Carson Smith. It was 7-5 at halftime in favor of Montana State, the cats went on a 7-1 run.

“We had some unforced turnovers and we knew that the Bobcats were going to want to force transition and take advantage of the man-up,” Sargent said. “I think we lost our heads and focus because we haven’t beat this team in a few years, there was a lot of nervous energy.”

The Grizzlies have shown this season to be a second-half team, but MSU held Montana to only four second half goals. Pierce found Larson, who finished with a bounce shot. Pierce followed up later that quarter with a rip that went top-left. MSU scored two third quarter goals to bring the score to 11-7.

Montana came out with fire in the fourth quarter, but the Grizzlies could only find two more goals from Carson Smith and PIerce. The Cats added some insurance points late in the fourth to solidify the win, as Montana came within three goals at one point in the quarter.

Senior goalkeeper Drew Moesel kept Montana in the game, making some tough saves from the start. He finished the night with 24 saves. Defenseman Zev Revis and face-off-specialist Luke Johnson led the team with six ground balls apiece.

We definitely came out hot like we wanted but they just got the momentum and we couldn’t get it back,” Hayden Smith said. “We just need to get back to work, there’s just a lot of stuff we have to work on.”

Although Montana won’t have the luxury of crossing off this midseason task as a success, it has plenty of lacrosse still left to play. The Grizzlies will close out its divisional schedule against Western Washington on April 12 (7 p.m.) and Seattle University on April 13 (1 p.m.)

Montana’s undefeated in PNCLL North play with a divisional record of 2-0 and an overall record of 6-5. The Grizzlies will host the PNCLL conference tournament April 26-28.  

Lucas Ailport— Media Relations

One Montana Grizzly will get a crack at his former team

Photo Courtesy: Larry Johnson

Photo Courtesy: Larry Johnson

The Grizzlies will open its divisional schedule this weekend against Central Washington and Gonzaga. The contest with Central Washington in Ellensburg has more meaning for one Montana sophomore.

Midfielder Parker Swank was the Wildcats’ top-point scorer as a freshman last season. He tallied 17 goals and three assists in ten games. Central Washington finished with a record of 3-7. Swank’s frustration slowly grew all season and felt a change was needed.

“The speed of lacrosse there wasn't what I wanted to settle on. I knew there were other opportunities,” Swank said. “When Tuck (Sargent) came to me it just seemed like a perfect fit.”

Swank learned about the reputation Montana has built over the years. He knew that student-athletes who went to Montana to play lacrosse went because they wanted to win. Head coach Tucker Sargent approached Swank after the two teams faced each other last season and talked to him about Swank’s growing frustrations with his current situation.

Being with new players and a new team can be challenging, especially when finding where to fit on the field. Swank is meshing nicely with six goals and an assist in Montana’s five games.

Swank didn’t pick up a lacrosse stick until he was in the eighth grade. Lacrosse in his hometown of Maple Valley, Wash., wasn’t that popular compared to other areas. Most kids he’s played with started anywhere from third to sixth grade. He spent a lot of his time throwing the ball against a wall on the playground of his local elementary school.

His ability on the field and high lacrosse knowledge doesn’t reflect on him being two to five years late to the game compared to his teammates. Not only has he produced offensively this season, he’s stepped up big on the defensive end when needed.

In Montana’s home opener goalkeeper Drew Moesel left his net to try and pick up a loose ball, but an Idaho Vandal player quickly scooped it up and in a split-second the Vandals took a shot on an open net. Swank saw the shooter, dove in front of the shot and got a piece of it with his stick, shutting down a key scoring opportunity.

“When we played against him I noticed he was a good player and thought he’d fit in well here,” Sargent said. “The good thing about Parker is he’s only a sophomore. I see a much bigger role down the road for him.”

Montana’s strength of schedule is rigorous compared to what Swank’s used to. The top two teams he faced while at Central Washington was College of Idaho and Montana. So far this season Montana has already faced three-top ten teams in St. John’s (4), North Dakota State (6) and College of Idaho (9).

“It's been a level I've never played at before, just the amount of quickness and how the game doesn't really stop,” Swank said. “There’s not a lot of bad passes or errors, just a lot faster and I love the competition.”

Swank started out as an attack man for Montana, the position he played as a Wildcat. However, after a few games he’s transitioned to a midfielder. Sargent said it’s the best move for the team and thinks Swank is adjusting well at the position. .

Sargent wants Swank to do what he does best and put points on the board. Swank’s used to running around with his head cut-off at Central Washington with the different roles that he was used to playing. While at Montana he’ll be able to take a breath and focus on his role rather than having to be the guy everyone looks for.

He’s been transitioning well to the new level of speed. Swank’s been using his five-foot-eleven-inch, 160-pound frame to swiftly maneuver around opponents. His slim physique and quick feet are why he got into lacrosse in the first place.

Swank had his recruiting trip last July. Mark, Swank’s father takes him fly-fishing every summer about 30 miles north of Helena, along the Missouri River. They’ve gone every year since 2010, and always made a stop in Missoula. Swank loves the outdoors and feels like there’s always something to do outside in Montana.

“There is one river that goes through Ellensburg, and it’s very flat over there. It's like an older town with nothing really going on,” Swank said. “Out here you have natural hot springs and it's just a good place for a college kid to go to.”

Lucas Ailport—Media Relations

Griz had a mountain to climb after a first quarter barrage by College of Idaho

The Montana men's lacrosse team had an 8-1 deficit after the first quarter against the College of Idaho on March 10 in Caldwell, Idaho. The game changed drastically in the second half, but the Griz couldn't dig itself out of the hole the team endured in the first quarter.

Courtesy of James Larson— April 30, 2018

Courtesy of James Larson— April 30, 2018

Montana dropped its fourth straight game of the season, 20-10 against the Coyotes. The Grizzlies were down 12-2 at halftime, but managed to score eight second half goals.

"It's hard when you're down, but you're out here for 60 minutes and are you going to let those 60 minutes get worse or are you going to do something about it," Head coach Tucker Sargent said. "We responded well and tried to make something better about it. The score wasn't in our favor but we kept fighting."

In the first half attackman Jimmy Pierce scored Montana's two goals. The defense lacked communication early on and that resulted in the 12-goal first-half barrage by the Coyotes.

"I think we were overwhelmed. It seemed like it was kind of a smack in the face and we didn't know how to respond," Defense-midfielder Nolan Davis said. "The second half we really picked it up and that definitely was a big boost."

Parker Swank dished out a pass to Miguel Generoso to get the scoring kicked off in the second half for Montana. Aidan Larson followed suit and found Travis Myers for another Grizzlies goal to bring it to 12-4.

College of Idaho scored five unanswered before Trent Tubbs found the back of the net. Pierce scored another and brought the score to 17-6.

"I'm just proud of how we bounced back as a team in the second half and we just kept fighting," Pierce said. "The result isn't what we wanted but we know what we got to work on heading into this week."

A silver lining is Montana outscored the Coyotes 4-3 in the fourth quarter. Generoso and Larson generated the scoring for the Grizzlies. Both finished the day with four points. Defenseman Eric Mott recorded six ground balls and defenseman Zev Revis picked up four. Goalkeeper Drew Moesel faced 44 shots and made 24 saves.

The Grizzlies seemed to have success when transitioning from defense to offense, something the team has struggled with early this season. Montana  had only one failed clear out of 11 attempts throughout the nightmarish first half. The Grizzlies had seven successful clears and failed on five attempts during the second half.

Montana is now 1-4 and College of Idaho move to 3-0 on the season. The Grizzlies will kick off its divisional schedule against Central Washington (2-0) on March 16 and Gonzaga (1-2) on March 17. Gonzaga is coming off a 22-0 win against Seattle University, and Central Washington defeated Southern Oregon 10-9 in its last contest.

Lucas Ailport—Media Relations

Griz lacrosse falls to Idaho in unruly conditions

Photo courtesy: Al Williams

Photo courtesy: Al Williams

The temperature was dropping, the wind was whipping, the snow was falling and the turf could have been mistaken for an ice rink. The Montana men's lacrosse team clashed against the Idaho Vandals on March 1.

The snow was a light calm before the storm as 25-mile-per-hour wind gusts whistled through Washington-Grizzly Stadium in the later half of the game, blowing snow in every direction. Unfortunately Montana dropped its home opener 10-7.

“That game should have never been played. That’s on me,” head coach Tucker Sargent said when he addressed the team. “Those conditions make it a toss up and we ended up on the short end of it.”

Montana was down 5-1 after the first quarter and a lone goal from Trent Tubbs off a rebound from Sean Anderson. The Grizzlies stepped out of hibernation in the second quarter and scored four unanswered goals to knot it up at five apiece by halftime.

Jimmy Pierce started the run with a swim move over the defender on the doorstep for a goal. Right after that, Luke Johnson won the faceoff and took it down the field for a quick unassisted goal that brought Montana within two.

Goalkeeper Drew Moesel played a ball outside of his crease and his pass was intercepted and the Vandals had an open shot at an empty net. However, Parker Swank quickly adapted and dove in front of the net to deflect the shot off his stick.

“I saw that Drew was out of the cage going for the ball, then out of nowhere I saw one of the Idaho guys getting ready to rip a shot,” Parker Swank said. “So I just threw my body into the shot hoping that I’d stop it.”

Later in the second quarter Miguel Generoso found Aidan Larson on the back door of the Vandals net for a man-up goal. A few minutes go by and Moesel is all alone with a Vandal attacker, but stonewalled the shot as it approached the net. Moments later and the Grizzlies went on the attack. Generoso once again dished out another assist, this time to Pierce to tie the game.

The Grizzlies secured its first lead of the game when Larson picked up a loose ball in the attacking zone and threw a shot in the net to bring it to 6-5 early in the third quarter. Unfortunately that would be as close as Montana would get, as Idaho would finish the game on a 5-1 run. Hayden Smith scored the only goal in the fourth quarter for the Grizzlies.

Moesel finished the night with 14 saves, which puts him over 700 saves now during his time as a Grizzly. Zev Revis, Eric Mott and Nolan Davis each picked up four ground balls. There was a lot of effort from the defense in terms of trying to help generate offense. Several times you’d find any one of them carrying the ball from end to end. Trevor Wikstrom and Luke Johnson dominated the face-offs for Montana. The two won a combined 16 out of 20 draws.

The Grizzlies originally had a matchup in Missoula against College of Idaho on March 3. However, both coaches agreed to have the game moved to Caldwell, Idaho on March 10 due to weather and travel concerns. The game will serve as a rematch of last year’s conference championship game. College of Idaho defeated Montana 11-10 in overtime.

“This coming week we’ll come to practice willing to work and prepare, no matter if we’re in a gym, outside or in a cardboard box,” assistant coach Al Williams said. “We’re a team and we have to get better as a unit and be able to trust one another.”

Lucas Ailport— Media Relations

Two Montana lacrosse signees hope to keep freshmen tradition going

When a coach needs someone to come in clutch for the team late in the game it’s more often than not a senior or an upperclassmen: Someone who’s been there before.

Will Smyth- University of Montana lacrosse Facebook page

Will Smyth- University of Montana lacrosse Facebook page

However, Montana men’s lacrosse head coach Tucker Sargent has figured out a way to incorporate talented-freshmen into those monumental situations. Since 2016 alone at least two freshmen have played vital roles within the Grizzlies game plan. There was midfielder Nate Hanold and goalkeeper Drew Moesel back in 2016. Hanold tallied 15 goals and 11 assists for the Grizzlies. Moesel recorded 229 saves in 16 games.

In 2017 there were then-freshmen Luke Johnson and Trent Tubbs. Johnson has been a reliant face-off specialist for Montana. During his freshman campaign he handled 224 faceoffs and won 70 percent of them. He was third on the team for ground balls with 72. Tubbs showed he was capable of playing at the collegiate level as a freshman. He ended his freshman year with 17 points.

Last year it was attackmen Jimmy Pierce and Miguel Generoso that ran the offense for the Grizzlies, together they generated 110 points. Pierce led the team with 49 goals and Generoso led the team with 32 assists.

That trend will seem to continue as several freshmen are already making impacts this season. The Grizzlies will add two more soon-to-be freshmen to next year’s roster. The two talented high school seniors will bring an abundance of knowledge about the game with them to Montana.

Will Smyth and James Holak are from Duluth, a city located on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota about 120 miles from the Twin Cities. On Feb. 16 they traveled about three hours southwest to Collegeville, MN., where the Grizzlies faced St. Johns. Although Smyth and Holak just observed, their true lacrosse IQ really stood out after the game.

Smyth acknowledged that the team needed to work on clears (transition from defense to offense) and attempt to move the ball forward as much as possible. James added that the team seemed a little too impatient while on offense. Sargent had a similar conversation with the team about areas that needed to be worked on after the loss against St. John’s.

“They have a good game theory and understanding of the play and strategy of the game,” Sargent said. “It’s good to see when kids recognize that. Once you understand your mistake or where you’re flawed then you have that chance to improve.”

Holak led his high school team in assists with 24 last season. He added 13 goals on the year. Unfortunately Holak tore his ACL last October while participating in a lacrosse tournament. His main focus is to rehabilitate the knee so he can be back by the end of his high school career. Holak is considered a feeder, someone who likes to pass the ball and creates plays for others around him.

James Holak- UM lacrosse Facebook page

James Holak- UM lacrosse Facebook page

Smyth was named Grinder of the Year from his high school team his junior season. He picked up 48 ground balls and tallied 19 points. Smyth scored two goals in Duluth’s 8-6 loss in the section championship game (winner would advance to the state tournament). The two helped lead Duluth to a 14-2 overall record in 2018. The new additions will add to an already lethal offensive unit. Sargent said the game is meant for scoring and he wants people can who can help generate that.

“They both have high motors and they have the ability to play selflessly. They’re willing to get in the trenches and do the dirty work,” Sargent said. “Just good team players is the report on them.”

Lacrosse has been apart of their lives for some time. Smyth started playing in sixth grade and Holak began playing in fourth grade. The two not only grew a passion for the game, but also created a friendship that has lasted quite some time. Smyth had a little bit of influence in Holak’s decision to attend Montana, but him and his family have driven through Missoula many of times and knows how unique of a city it is.

“All my best friends play lacrosse and we’ve been playing together since day one,” Smyth said. “I do everything outside of lacrosse with James and all our other friends like skiing, skateboarding or just hanging out.”

Holak said he’s not to sure what he’d be doing without lacrosse. He’s just thankful the game gave him something to focus on.

Lucas Ailport— Media Relations