(Editor's note: University of Montana press release)
MISSOULA—Montana redshirt freshman Camellia Xu, a six-time Defensive Player of the Week during the regular season, was named the Big Sky Conference Goalkeeper of the Year on Monday in voting by the league’s coaches.
Xu also was voted first-team All-Big Sky, as were seniors Taylor Hansen, Caitlin Rogers and Taylor Stoeger. Montana has now had four or more first-team All-Big Sky selections in consecutive years for the first time since 1998-99.
Sydney Haustein was named second team, Allie Larsen honorable mention.
Xu becomes Montana’s third Goalkeeper of the Year in program history. All three have come in the last six seasons, with Kailey Norman being honored in 2016, Claire Howard last spring.
Montana’s previous winners were both seniors by the time they were named Goalkeeper of the Year.
“It’s been interesting to see Cam go through this with all the awards and how she’s handled it,” said coach Chris Citowicki. “It’s different when it’s a senior or a junior, someone who’s been working toward this. It’s a unique spot for us to manage and try to get through.
“But it’s a pretty big deal and really cool for her to be in this position. It shows how good she can be and what her potential is. Let’s face it, she is only going to get better.”
Xu takes an 11-4-1 record and a 0.67 goals-against average and .869 save percentage into the postseason, where Montana will be the No. 2 seed at this week’s Big Sky Championship in Greeley, Colo.
Xu leads the Big Sky in goals-against average and save percentage, plus shutouts with nine.
A big reason for Xu’s individual accolades has been the play of the veteran back line in front of her. Half of the four first-team All-Big Sky defenders are from Montana in Rogers and Hansen.
Rogers was the Big Sky co-Defensive MVP in 2019, then suffered a broken leg in the fall of 2020, which kept her from playing more than just a few minutes during the 2021 spring season.
She not only came back this fall, she’s been better than ever.
“The big question at the start of the year was, what is Caitlin going to be like? She came back and it was like she never broke her leg at all,” said Citowicki.
“It’s been amazing to take that much time off and have that severity of an injury and still come back as well as she has, and to still have that insanely competitive drive she has and extreme confidence in herself. That’s the part that’s never wavered. It’s as if nothing ever happened.”
Rogers helped Montana post nine shutouts during the regular season and even got in on the scoring, netting her first two career goals.
She scored the game-winner on a long free kick in Montana’s 1-0 win at Northern Arizona to open league, then added another game-winner a week later in the Grizzlies’ 1-0 home win over Sacramento State.
That goal came off a corner kick from Hansen and was one of six assists for the outside back, a total that tied for the Big Sky lead. It’s the most assists for a Montana player since India Watne had eight in 2011. Prior to that it was 2001 that a Grizzly has had at least six assists in a season.
Through Hansen’s first three seasons she had six assists and no goals scored. Her breakthrough came last spring, when she collected two goals and three assists.
This season, her fifth, brought on by a COVID allowance, she’s totaled one goal and six assists. Her 15 career assists rank sixth in program history.
It makes it three consecutive years Hansen has been voted first-team All-Big Sky, the first time that’s happened for Montana since Wendy Stuker from 2002-04.
“It’s no surprise she’s first-team all-conference. She’s a special player. She deserves it,” said Citowicki.
“She’s evolved to be a player who can play professionally. She does both sides of the game well. She’s a threat everywhere. I’m very proud of her for that. That’s a big step, even from the spring.”
It’s easy to forget that Stoeger, whose seven goals this season tied for second in the Big Sky and are the most for a Montana player since Hallie Widner’s seven in 2014, had two just a few weeks ago, the two she scored in Montana’s lopsided home win over Texas Southern back in early September.
Then Montana lost 1-0 at Northern Colorado on Oct. 10 and nothing’s been quite the same offensively since.
After making a change to its formation, philosophy and mentality, Montana closed the regular season with four straight two-goal outputs. Stoeger scored five of those eight goals for the Grizzlies.
“When you look at the principles of goal-scoring, she checks off every single one of them,” said Citowicki. “We’re now putting her in positions she should naturally be in.
“Put her in the box and she can do legit goal-scoring stuff, and now she’s getting more goals. She scores scrappy goals. She does that very well. For her to get this is incredible.”
Haustein had never been voted even honorable mention before this year. She’d always been solid in the midfield but didn’t have a goal or an assist through her first two years, statistics that make a player stand out more than just steady play.
“At the start of the year, she came in and said, I like being the player who gets the basics done, but now I want to score goals and get assists, and she’s done that,” said Citowicki.
Haustein scored her first collegiate goal at Cal Poly, added two against Texas Southern, then scored the goal that shocked Long Beach State in the 86th minute in Montana’s 1-0 victory over The Beach on the road.
She scored the game-winner on Oct. 24 as Montana closed out the regular season with a home victory over Idaho State, taking a clearing attempt out of midair and netting the winner.
Her first and lone career assist came on Skyleigh Thompson’s game-winner in Montana’s 2-0 victory at Eastern Washington.
Larsen, second-team All-Big Sky last season, was voted honorable mention as a junior. She started all 17 matches and averaged more than 75 minutes per game at center back for the league’s top defensive team.
Her lone assist on the season was a memorable one. It set up Jaden Griggs to complete the hat trick in Montana’s 4-0 home win over MSU Billings.
Big Sky Conference Individual Awards
Offensive MVP: Lexi Pulley, Northern Colorado
Defensive MVP: Maddie Duren, Northern Colorado
Goalkeeper of the Year: Camellia Xu, Montana
Golden Boot: Lexi Pulley, Northern Colorado
Top Newcomer: Morgan Furmaniak, Weber State
First-team All-Big Sky Conference
Lexi Pulley, Northern Colorado
Taylor Bray, Northern Colorado
Taylor Stoeger, Montana
Olivia Seddon, Northern Colorado
Madison Kem, Eastern Washington
Sadie Newson, Weber State
Jasmyne Dunn, Sacramento State
Maddie Duren, Northern Colorado
Aubrey Goodwill, Sacramento State
Taylor Hansen, Montana
Caitlin Rogers, Montana
Camellia Xu, Montana
Second-team All-Big Sky Conference
Abigail Lopez, Sacramento State
Danna Restom, Sacramento State
Sam Larberg, Northern Arizona
Taylor Slack, Weber State
Sydney Haustein, Montana
Julia Herrera, Sacramento State
Mikhail Johnson, Northern Arizona
Erika Hall, Northern Colorado
Olivia Tucker, Weber State
Taylor Brust, Idaho
Jordyn King, Eastern Washington
Kelsee Winston, Eastern Washington
Honorable-mention All-Big Sky Conference
Madison Montgomery, Northern Arizona
Jadyn Hanks, Idaho
Gabby Warta, Idaho State
Samantha Craig, Sacramento State
Kamryn Farro, Southern Utah
Lucy Quinn, Portland State
Sienna Higinbotham, Portland State
Shay Valenzano, Sacramento State
Jessica Mann, Sacramento State
Abby Donathan, Northern Arizona
Allie Larsen, Montana
Mya Elder-Hammond, Eastern Washington
Lucy Hart, Northern Colorado
Hailey Price, Weber State
Mekell Moss, Weber State
Avrie Fox, Idaho