UM football coach helps give pros two shots | Sports

Griz Soccer head coach Chris Citowicki, pictured outside the Hall of Champions, led the Montana soccer program to a 16-3-1 record last season and a championship victory in the Big Sky Conference in 2021. As part of a five-year plan, Citowicki is focused on recruiting, winning, and connecting players at the professional level.

Chris Citowicki, Montana’s head soccer coach, dreamed of playing in a professional soccer league when he was young. Now that he’s a coach, he helps others achieve that goal.

In the last week of January, former Griz football stars Caitlin Rogers and Mimi Eiden both signed to play professional football.

“All I wanted to do when I was 14, 15, 16 was go and play professionally overseas,” Citowicki said. “And to have those same opportunities given to people like Caitlin and Mimi who have just signed with a team in Iceland, it’s just amazing.”

Rogers was an All-Big Sky caliber player during her time at the University of Montana. In her senior year, she produced a nod to the All-Big Sky Conference first team as she played as the starting center back in a tough defensive unit with 11 shutouts this season.

Eiden was a transfer from North Dakota his senior season in 2020, entering a tumultuous year for all sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. After graduating, she played for Liberia in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Eiden and Rogers have both signed with Grindavik FC in Iceland and will soon be leaving to become Missoula’s next class of professional football players.

Former Griz football players Alexa Coyle and Rita Lang also signed contracts last year to play professionally in Scotland and Portugal respectively. Citowicki has yet to see any of his former players play abroad.

“I haven’t done that yet. Of course, because of COVID, last year [because] everything happened. So I didn’t go to Scotland to see Lex or to Ireland to see Rita. But it will happen soon,” Citowicki said.

Taylor Hansen is the next to try and make her way onto a pro roster, as she is currently undergoing pre-season training with National Women’s Soccer League team San Diego Wave FC.

“Pre-season will start tomorrow, I’m just extremely grateful for this opportunity. It’s a combination of hard work, perseverance and being in a supportive environment that has allowed me to take it to the next level,” said Hansen.

The NWSL has been marred by controversy over a recent sexual harassment and coercion scandal against former Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley. Citowicki balked during the regular season about signing his players in a league with troubling legal issues, but Hansen is looking for a contract at the top level.

“Chris and the coaching staff have always gone out of their way to support me. I have been very lucky to be part of a program that sets no boundaries and pushes players to be the best version of their game. ‘themselves,’ Hansen said.

She was a three-time All-Big Sky Conference first-team player in addition to leading her team in assists in her senior year. She holds the record for most minutes, most games played and most games started in a career as a Griz football player.

Citowicki’s original goal when he was hired as head coach was to make Missoula a football destination.

“The main objective was to start winning. If you start winning, you can recruit. If you can recruit, you keep winning. And then at that point, once we are ready, find the right person with the right connections,” Citowicki said.

The UM football team enjoyed success individually and as a team in 2021. After a slow 0-3 start to the season, the Grizzlies cruised through big non-conference teams like Boise State, finishing their season with a 13-6-1 registration.

That regular-season success would propel them up the standings and pass Weber State for a Big Sky Conference championship win and a bid for the NCAA Division 1 Women’s College Cup.

With Citowicki’s first goal, his next goal is to go further in the tournament each year. With the success he wishes to cultivate and six ideals to uphold, his players go above and beyond.

“I just want people to really get to know this team because there are so many amazing personalities, not just exciting football players, but some of these people are just amazing. And I want to get their names out there. I want people to get to know them, so come see us play for that reason.

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