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Montana's Ashlyn Dvorak named Big Sky defensive player of the week

Ashlyn Dvorak.webp
Posted at 3:31 PM, Sep 05, 2023

(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)

MISSOULA — Montana redshirt freshman goalkeeper Ashlyn Dvorak, coming off shutouts of Utah Tech and Oklahoma at Gonzaga’s tournament in Spokane, was named the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday

Dvorak, a Billings native and West High graduate, in just her fifth and sixth collegiate starts, blanked the Trailblazers 4-0 on Thursday and the Sooners 1-0 on Sunday, giving her four shutouts on the season and lowering her goals-against average to 0.50.

“What we’re seeing now is the personality she has in training,” said sixth-year coach Chris Citowicki, whose program developed 2020 Big Sky Conference Goalkeeper of the Year Claire Howard and 2021 winner Camellia Xu. “When she trains, there is an exceptional level of confidence. There are still little moments of hesitation during games because it is a more high-pressure environment. Oklahoma was the first time I saw her make some saves that I was like, okay, that’s the kid I see in training every day. Just dominant at times.”

Dvorak is the fourth Grizzly to earn Big Sky Player of the Week honors through the first three weeks of the season. Molly Quarry (Defensive) and Delaney Lou Schorr (Offensive) were recognized after Week 1, Maysa Walters (Offensive) after Week 2.

Dvorak needed to make just one save, in the 22nd minute, against Utah Tech on Thursday as she and her teammates limited the Trailblazers to nine shots, just one on goal.

It was the fifth time in five matches to open the season that Montana limited its opponent to fewer than 10 shots.

Facing the Sooners on Sunday, the Grizzlies grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute when Kathleen Aitchison scored her second goal in two matches.

Oklahoma, which had scored 18 goals through its first five matches prior to Sunday, peppered Montana in the second half with 11 shots and seven corner kicks, but the Sooners were only able to put three shots on goal over the final 45 minutes, despite playing with greater and greater urgency.

It started with Dvorak and worked its way up to Charley Boone and Reeve Borseth, who both played 90 minutes at center back, and to every player who helped Montana maintain its lead for the Grizzlies’ first Power 5 victory under Citowicki, their first since winning at Purdue in 2016.

“She does a very good job with her communication,” said Citowicki. “That’s one of her strong suits. Her presence is well above what it should be for a freshman. It’s very advanced. She has an extremely bright future.

“But she is a freshman, so we have to keep protecting her and not put too much pressure on her and allow her to be herself and learn how to swim at this level.”

Montana has become Goalkeeper U in part by allowing its keepers to work into the position gradually.

Dvorak understudied behind Xu last season as a true freshman, the same thing Xu did for one year under Howard, the same things Howard did for one year under 2016 Big Sky Goalkeeper of the Year Kailey Norman.

In the spring, when the opportunity presented itself, Dvorak took control of the position, in particular with a strong showing against BYU, which is 6-0-0 thus far this fall and recently defeated then No. 1 UCLA 3-1 to move up to No. 7 nationally.

“Having to wait has helped every goalkeeper before,” said Citowicki. “Ashlyn had the advantage of watching Cam do it and then building confidence over the spring and finally getting some games.”

Montana, at 5-0-1, sits atop the Big Sky standings and will host Mountain West Conference leader Colorado State (3-0-1) on Thursday at 5 p.m.

The Grizzlies will face another challenge on Sunday when they host Georgia Southern (4-1-0) at 1 p.m. at South Campus Stadium. The Eagles, who host No. 22 Georgia on Thursday, have won three straight matches, including a 2-1 road win at Miami.