MISSOULA — The Montana women's soccer team is in the midst of a dynastic run.
UM won the Big Sky tournament in 2018, and after the COVID-19 pandemic postponed its 2020 season, the Grizzlies won the spring title in 2021, and turned around in six months to win it all again this past fall.
Paired with that success is a surplus of players who are seeing their careers extend past college into the professional ranks as they live out their dreams.
"No matter where you get to play, I get to travel and play soccer and get paid so if it's even something that you're even potentially thinking about I think you should still go for it because if you only do it for a year, that's one place that you get to see for free for a year," former Grizzly Caitlin Rogers said. "From my point of view, it's an easy place to experience different cultures and play the sport you love."
Rogers, Rita Lang and Mimi Eiden all currently play together for Grindavik's soccer club in Iceland. Taylor Hansen became the first Montana Grizzly to make the roster for a National Women's Soccer League team in the U.S. after she made the roster for San Diego Wave FC.
Former Grizzly Alexa Coyle just wrapped up her first pro season as well, with her path taking her to Scotland and Hibernian Women's Football Club.
"Getting those opportunities, it was just really rewarding and very surreal," Coyle said. "But something that I think was so special was being able to go over and fit right in and get a starting spot and play consistently was really exciting and also just shows that players that come from the University of Montana, you can not only get opportunities at the professional level, but play and compete at the professional level."
Lang has made the most stops of the bunch and has played in Portugal, Ireland and now Iceland, saying it's been a winding road as a pro athlete with adjustments at every stop.
"Just to kind of acclimate and adjust to their style so that you can still be successful within that league," Lang said. "So that's been a bit of a challenge but it's a good challenge because I think that turns you into more of a well-rounded player and it definitely adds things to my game that I wouldn't have necessarily had before because I had only been playing in certain areas."
The recent surge in conference titles and players finding pro opportunities are two signs of UM's program taking the next step as it grows into a regular contender, draws from a deep talent pool, and grows in the Division I soccer scene under head coach Chris Citowicki and his staff.
And as the program continues this trajectory, the Griz are hoping to turn that into more postseason success.
"A lot of us taking that next step is really awesome to see and I hope that opens doors for other players who have been thinking about it and that'll make the program even more of a hot spot for people to come because we are very talented over there," Eiden said.