MISSOULA – One team on the University of Montana campus has already started practicing for the fall. The Grizzlies’ soccer team hit the field for the first time Wednesday with a new look and a new man in charge.
Chris Citowicki takes over the program after a winding journey to Missoula. He was born in Poland, lived in South Africa shortly, was raised mostly in Australia, came to the U.S. for college, and has coached in Minnesota and North Dakota for the past decade.
His new players have been instantly impressed with Citowicki’s non-stop energy, and he couldn’t wait to start what he calls a dream job.
“In the buildup I was surprisingly not nervous. Everything was flowing. It was great. I felt good about things,” Citowicki said before his first practice started. “And then last night my 4-year-old woke up at about 3:36 a.m. I helped her get back to bed, and then I couldn’t sleep from that point on — just geared up, so many ideas, so many thoughts. Let’s just get going. Let’s get on the field right now. And that’s just where I’ve been the whole time.”
“I keep just saying passionate. Passionate, high energy,” ]senior midfielder/defender Janessa Fowler said when asked to describe her new head coach. “You talk to him for more than two minutes you know what his philosophies are. You want to hop on his bus, because he’s just so enthusiastic about what he’s doing.”
“There’s no room for average, no room for complacency,” said Citowicki. “It’s just gung-ho the whole time. If you don’t want to live life to the max, then don’t be here. Those are the people that we want to bring in.”
Citowicki has already noticed more passion from the Griz fan base than anywhere else he has coached or played, and he says the alumni he has talked to want more goals, so that’s what his Grizzlies will focus on.
He also wanted everyone to get a fresh start, so Citowicki didn’t watch much film of his returning players, choosing to instead make his choices based on the impressions made in practice.
“We don’t have expectations. We have standards, but not expectations,” said Fowler. “So we’re going in open-minded, and anything can happen. Anyone has an opportunity and a chance to come in and blossom into a huge player.”
“But we get to experience it all new,” added reigning Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year Taryn Miller. “It’s not just new to the freshmen this year; it’s new for the seniors, so I think that will bond us together, experiencing that.”
“It’s a good way to just let everybody be who they are,” said Citowicki. “If you need a fresh beginning you’ve got it right here. It’s perfect. Some people need that sometimes. So yeah, we’ll see what they’ve got.”
The Grizzlies will get to show their fans their new look when they kick off the season in the Montana Cup. UM will host Fresno State and San Francisco on Aug. 17 and 19.