Northern Colorado Cooks up first Big Sky soccer title
Big Sky Championship ticket information
GREELEY -- The campus at the University of Northern Colorado is looking more and more like "Title Town."
The Bears soccer program jumped in on the Big Sky Conference championship action Sunday afternoon with a 2-0 home win against Montana.
The shutout against the Grizzlies gave Northern Colorado Soccer its first Big Sky Conference regular-season championship. The Bears (7-7-4, 4-1-2 Big Sky) will share the title with Portland State, which earned a 1-0 victory against Idaho State on Sunday and also finished with a 4-1-2 conference mark.
But because of Northern Colorado's 1-0 victory against the Viks earlier this season, the Bears hold the tiebreaker with Portland State and will host this year's Big Sky Soccer Championship, beginning Friday, Nov. 4.
Northern Colorado will play fourth-seed Montana at 5 p.m. in the second semifinal match, while Weber State will lock horns with second-seed Portland State at 2 p.m. Both games will be at Jackson Stadium.
The Big Sky Soccer Championship title match will take place at Jackson Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6.
"(Winning the Big Sky) has really been the team's goal all year," Northern Colorado coach Tim Barrera said. "We played a little bit of a tougher schedule this year to get ready for Big Sky play, and it paid off.
"One of the biggest advantages of winning the conference, besides being a champion, is the fact that you get to host the tournament. We play really well at home, and the crowd is always going to be good. Today's crowd was fantastic, especially all the (Northern Colorado) football players, and we're really excited for the opportunity to play in front of them again."
The excitement coming into the beautiful afternoon Sunday was palpable at Jackson Stadium. A crowd of almost 500 came out for a chance to see another Bears championship.
Northern Colorado didn't waste any time giving them something to cheer about, as Ariel Cook, a senior, let go a well-placed shot from almost 30 yards out in just the fourth minute. The shot seemed to have eyes as it floated out of the reach of Grizzlies goalkeeper Kristen Hoon and into the net.
"Having so many experienced players out there today made the difference," Barrera said. "We were really expecting one of our older players to step up, and Ariel was great. She's had a really good year for us, even if it hasn't translated into a ton of goals. She's become more of a playmaker for us."
The action was tense for the rest of the half, but despite the teams having 17 shots between them, both had just one shot on goal.
In the second half, Northern Colorado controlled more of the play, as the Bears outshot Montana 9-4. Still, both teams managed just two more shots on goal in the second 45 minutes.
As time continued to tick down, Cook put an exclamation mark on the game with her second goal in the 76th minute when junior Alexsys Tamayo let go a pass that opened up freshman Juliana Grover, who sent a cross into the box that was touched toward the goal by Cook before being kicked in by a Montana defender trying to clear.
The goal was Cook's fourth of the season.
After the second goal, the minutes continued to count down until, officially, the Bears were Big Sky Conference co-champions and joined Northern Colorado Volleyball, Men's Basketball and Women's Basketball as current Big Sky Champions.
Before Bears soccer can begin 2011 Big Sky Championship play, though, they will celebrate Senior Night Friday, Oct. 28, with a home match against Nebraska-Omaha in a nonconference season finale at Jackson Stadium.
Tickets for the 2011 Big Sky Women's Soccer Championship will be sold as a package and includes access to all three matches.
Adult tickets will cost $15 (for all three matches), while tickets for children 13 and under will cost $5 (for all three matches). Students of any of the four participating universities will be admitted free of charge with a university-issued ID.
To purchase tickets, please call the Northern Colorado ticket-office at 970-351-4849, or visit www.uncbears.com.