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Montana's Camellia Xu earns Big Sky Conference soccer honor

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Posted at 4:34 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 18:34:20-04

(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)

MISSOULA -- Montana redshirt freshman goalkeeper Camellia Xu has been named the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season, the league office announced on Tuesday.

Xu made six saves while facing 26 shots as the Grizzlies, in their only match of the week, upset Long Beach State 1-0 on Thursday night in the Beach’s home opener.

Long Beach State, which had been getting votes in the national poll ever since winning at No. 8 Pepperdine, entered the match ranked fifth in the West Region by the United Soccer Coaches.

The only other team to previously shut out Long Beach State this season had been UCLA, which is now 8-0-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation.

It was Xu’s third consecutive shutout, following 6-0 and 1-0 victories over Texas Southern and Boise State, respectively, and her fourth clean sheet in five games. Boise State was also regionally ranked.

Xu’s goals-against average now stands at 0.97 while her save percentage has improved to .806. Her four shutouts are tied for first in the Big Sky with Idaho senior Avrie Fox.

That’s four shutouts in her first six full matches played for the goalkeeper who spent last season learning behind Claire Howard, whose 32 career shutouts set a new Big Sky record.

“That was the most influential aspect of how well I’m doing now,” Xu said. “Had I just come in and played right away, I would have lost a lot of knowledge that I learned on the bench. Spending time hearing what the coaches are saying and seeing a different perspective really pushed me to become who I am now. It was a huge advantage.”

Xu played the second half and overtimes in the season opener at Creighton, then started and played the first half against Portland, splitting time with junior Elizabeth Todd opening week.

Xu has played every minute of every match since then. In her fourth career start, at Gonzaga on Sept. 5, Xu faced 25 shots and gave up three goals. On Thursday night at Long Beach, she faced 26 shots. None of them entered the goal.

The Beach would have possession 65 percent of the match, outshoot the Grizzlies 26-4 and take 12 corner kicks to zero for Montana, yet the match was scoreless at the half.

Montana will take its three-match winning streak on the road this week, opening Big Sky play at Northern Arizona on Friday night in Flagstaff.

The Lumberjacks were picked first in the preseason poll, the Grizzlies second.