An early seven-goal deficit proved too much for the Idaho menâ€™s club lacrosse team to overcome Saturday, as the team fell 15-8 to regional foe Montana on the SprinTurf.
The Grizzlies scored five goals in the fourth quarter to seal the win over the Vandals, after Idaho cut the deficit to two late in the third quarter.
â€œWeâ€™ve just got to get out of the habit of starting slow,â€ Idaho head coach James Courter said. â€œWeâ€™ll continue to build upon the momentum we seem to catch in the third quarter. If we do that, weâ€™ll find some more success.â€
Montana (4-8) capitalized on first half goals from junior attackman Eric Larson and freshman attackman Christopher Palmer to gain a 9-2 advantage over the Vandals.
â€œHistorically this has been a pretty heated rivalry,â€ Idaho senior captain A.J. Gravel said. â€œTheyâ€™ve been due for a win in their book, and they just came out firing on all cylinders. They caught us on a flat day.â€
Idaho (2-9) responded with six goals in the third quarter, capitalizing on strong performances from Gravel and freshman attackman Grant Hill.
â€œI think everyone was able to come together and realize what mistakes were being made,â€ Gravel said. â€œWe recognized that we needed to capitalize on what we had and really get the energy up.
Hill said the team usually plays its best after halftime.
â€œItâ€™s just always kind of been one of those things, weâ€™ve always had a pretty big second half,â€ Hill said. â€œWeâ€™ve got to work on getting a good first half in next game.
The Grizzlies would regain momentum with five unanswered goals in the fourth quarter to clinch the conference victory.
Hill said the depth of the Montana roster, compared to the low number of Vandal substitutes, provided the Grizzlies with an advantage late in the game.
â€œThe low numbers certainly donâ€™t help,â€ Hill said. â€œWe kind of got into our own heads more than anything. Weâ€™ve just got to play harder next time.â€
Hill led the Vandals with three goals and two assists. Gravel provided another three goals for Idaho, while sophomore midfielder Drew Welch netted two goals on six shots.
â€œI felt like I had a lot of shots today, and the goalie had a hot hand and he was making saves,â€ Gravel said. â€œI also felt like I wasnâ€™t shooting as well as I should have been. But the three I had â€“ I was able to put them in off side hip.â€
Palmer finished as the gameâ€™s leading scorer with four goals and two assists for Montana. Larson provided four goals and four ground balls, while graduate midfielder Robert Tomlinson provided two goals and three assists for the Grizzlies.
The Vandals will host rival Boise State at noon Saturday on Guy Wicks Field in Moscow in the teamâ€™s regular season finale.
â€œThis is the big one, everyone in the back of their minds have been thinking about all season,â€ Gravel said. â€œThis week we are going to emphasize working hard throughout the entire practice. Itâ€™s rough with 14 guys, but we need to really push it for the whole two hours.â€
Courter said he is proud of what his team has accomplished throughout the year.
â€œItâ€™s been a hell of a season,â€ Courter said. â€œWe made it through with low numbers, and we continue to come out each week and fight and compete.â€
Josh Grissom can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @GoshJrissom