After claiming the Big Sky Championship title last year, the University of Montana soccer coach filled the team with new freshman players at the start of the 2019 season.
Griz soccer lost six seniors last year, prompting second-year head coach Chris Citowiki to bring in 11 freshmen. Now almost half of the team’s 25-player roster is new to college soccer. The team won the Big Sky Conference tournament last year, and many players said they hope to do the same with a vastly different group.
“It’s been fun to have all the freshmen come in and have a whole new team,” said Zoe Transtrum, a sophomore out of Boise, Idaho. Transtrum said she has total faith in the incoming class, and any player on the team can step up off the bench and compete.
Allie Larsen, a freshman from Louisville, Colorado, explained a usual freshman soccer class is three to four women, but this year UM made an unprecedented move in bringing in such a large group.
Though the Griz started the first five games without a single win, freshman Jaden Griggs said that the team’s morale has been unphased. This season, the team will play seven of their first 10 games on the road, including trips to two Pac-12 schools.
The home opener on Sept. 6 against UC Santa Barbara was canceled after 40 minutes due to lightning. The game would have been the first appearance for the Griz at the South Campus Fields after a four-game stretch on the road.
Playing on the road has given the team mixed feelings, said Taylor Stoeger, a transfer student from Laramie County Community College. According to her, visiting exciting places around the country has resulted in physical exhaustion and missed classes. “It was a cool experience to play in front of 3,000 people,” Larsen said in reference to the Griz’s win against Washington State on Aug. 30. “That's the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of,” she said.
Washington State sits at No. 13 on the NCAA Division I top 25 teams as of Sept. 10.
Stoeger was optimistic that playing high-level teams will give the Griz an edge in its lower-level Big Sky matches. “We have been playing a lot of good teams, preseason,” said Stoeger. “I am excited to see how we compete against those teams in our conference.”
The UM soccer team is set to begin playing in the Big Sky Conference on Sept. 27 against the University of Idaho.