MISSOULA – Everyone wants to peak at the right time of the season. Very few teams pull it off the way Montana’s soccer women did last week.
The Grizzlies went to the Big Sky Conference tournament as the No. 5 seed in a six-team bracket. After three straight victories, they claimed a conference championship.
The Grizzlies got back together Monday afternoon with a brand-new trophy to display. The win clinched a spot in the NCAA national tournament, and Montana watched its name pop up during the selection show, right next to Washington State.
The Griz will make their second trip to Pullman, Wash., this season. They lost 3-1 to the Pac-12 powers back in September, but the red-hot squad has good reason to expect a different result this time against the Cougars.
“It’s so exciting, especially to see Washington State up there,” said senior defender Taryn Miller. “We’ve played them before. We know how they are as a team. We’re very excited, very confident going into this game.”
“We have a little bit of history with this team, so that’s something to definitely look forward to,” added senior forward and Big Sky tournament MVP Janessa Fowler. “We’ve played on that field many times. It’ll be a good game.”
“When we played them last time, it was a 3-1 game. I thought they were the better team, and I feel they are the better team. They were ranked well nationally,” said Griz head coach Chris Citowicki. “But it’s a game that we are excited about. I know that we were in it for parts of it, so we’re going to be a lot more motivated for it now, especially after playoffs, than we were last time.”
Lately nobody can score on Montana. The Griz shut out all three opponents at the Big Sky tournament, and they admit the past few days blur together and feel like a dream come true.
“It was amazing,” said Miller. “I couldn’t have imagined a better place to be my senior year. We’re peaking at the right times. It’s so much fun.”
“I still haven’t comprehended it,” added Citowicki. “I can’t believe how it just all fell into place at the right time. I know I was saying it — and I believed it — but I still can’t believe it happened. It’s just incredible.”
“Looking back a couple months ago, I think we were all hoping and crossing our fingers and still putting in so much work, hoping that the results would pay off,” said Fowler. “And to definitely be on the field (Sunday) and know it was all for such a purpose, and to be with all of these girls, it’s just been incredible.”
The Grizzlies and Cougars kick off in the first round at 8 p.m. Mountain Time Friday night in Pullman.