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University of Montana senior Claire Howard’s shutout record could have ended in disaster if she had mishandled an errant ball that came whizzing toward her team’s goal in the second half of a March 28 soccer game against Portland State. 

“When it all breaks down, you need a goalkeeper that can keep the ball out of the back of the net,” UM soccer head coach Chris Citowicki said. “Claire does an exceptional job of that.” 

Howard flicked the speeding ball into the air with one of her feet, then skilfully tapped the ball to keep it in the air with the other. The goalkeeper watched as the ball landed softly in her arms, completing a trick that would take a normal person hours to learn in an effortless fashion. 

When it comes to saving would-be goals, Howard also makes things effortless. 

Until about 2 p.m. that Sunday, the Big Sky Conference record for career shutouts hadn’t changed in over 10 years. A shutout occurs when a goalie doesn’t allow the opposing team to score a goal in a game. Then the senior goalie recorded her 30th career shutout, just edging out Sacramento State legend Savannah Abercrombie’s 29, set in October of 2010.

Continue Reading on Montana Kaimin

‘It’s amazing’: Montana’s Claire Howard breaks Big Sky Conference record for most career shutouts

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ISSOULA — Not much catches Claire Howard off guard on the soccer field, but her Montana teammates got her good when they snuck up behind her and dumped a teal-colored cooler filled with water on her head.

The smile-inducing gesture was the final celebration of Howard on an overcast, windy Sunday at Missoula County Stadium. The team had taken her down in a dog pile on the field and then lifted her up on their shoulders as they celebrated the Grizzly senior etching her name in the Big Sky Conference record book for most career shutouts.

“It’s amazing. It’s extremely humbling to know the love and support that I have,” Howard said after UM moved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in conference play with a 3-0 win over Portland State. “I always say that it takes a village to accomplish anything, and our village is pretty special.”

Howard’s jersey that got soaked with water features the number 00, which has been her jersey number since she was in club soccer. She chose that because she liked how zeroes represented shutouts, and she was all about getting as many shutouts as she could.
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