MISSOULA — Montana is officially headed southeast.
The Montana women's soccer team drew South Carolina in the opening round of the women's NCAA Tournament on Monday morning. The two teams will square off in Wilson, North Carolina, on Wednesday, April 28. The match will begin at 4 p.m. Mountain Time.
Montana (9-1-0) advanced to the NCAA Tournament after its Big Sky Conference championship game with Northern Arizona that was scheduled for last Saturday was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols within NAU's program.
While wanting a chance to play for that championship, the Grizzlies are happy to be back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018 and the fifth time overall in program history.
"It's been a wild ride," Montana coach Chris Citowicki said. "The whole theme the whole time has been, 'How you respond is what matters the most.' Not what's going on, it's how do you respond, how do you respond, what are we going to do, and so just keep moving forward. Just try to make the most out of every situation and all of a sudden because we've done that, we're here now."
Montana's appearance comes after the Griz fell just short in 2019 to Northern Colorado in the semifinal round. Then, the fall 2020 season was postponed by the conference due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so the Grizzlies went more than a year without a game until picking it up in the spring.
From there, Montana has dominated. UM opened with seven straight wins to start the season and defeated Northern Colorado 2-1 in overtime to advance to the title game.
"We were so excited after that 2019 season to get back after it in the fall and having the fall to train actually turned out to be a really beneficial thing for this team because we're able to just continue to improve and develop," Bozeman native and senior Alexa Coyle said. "And I think this proved to be very beneficial for the spring season we had. It's making this even that much more special and just all of us are so excited for the opportunity because of that long wait."
Now, Montana will take on South Carolina (10-4-0) in the first round. The Gamecocks are making their eighth straight appearance in the tournament and played most of their games back in the fall.
The winner will advance to take on Georgetown (11-0-1) in the second round on Saturday, May 1, at 4 p.m.
"We're just so excited for the opportunity," Coyle said. "We're ready to go and compete and we just can't wait to get there and we're excited to have a week to prep. We're very excited and very proud to be in this position."