(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA — The Montana soccer program, which plays its opener in less than three months, finalized its fall schedule recently.
The Grizzlies will play at South Campus Stadium, where they are 21-5-10 the last five seasons, early and often in 2022, with the schedule opening with a home tournament that will bring Pittsburgh, Creighton and Gonzaga to Missoula.
Montana will also play home matches against Wyoming, MSU Billings, CSU Bakersfield, Fresno State and North Dakota State.
The seven non-conference home matches are the most for the program since the Grizzlies began building a pre-Big Sky Conference schedule in 1997. Montana played as few as two non-conference home matches as recently as 2019.
“It’s been years trying to build a schedule like this,” said fifth-year coach Chris Citowicki. “Credit to our business office for helping me put together packages where we can pull teams in and create a schedule like this. Every once in a while, you get a blue moon. It’s taken years to get it balanced correctly. This is just an amazing schedule. This is as perfect as it gets. These are high-level teams from great conferences. It will be fun.”
Montana will open against Creighton on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 18, then get Pittsburgh on Sunday, Aug. 21. Gonzaga will play the opposite opponent each day in the early match.
The Grizzlies lost in double overtime at Creighton to open the 2021 season and later fell at Gonzaga, a loss that sparked a seven-match unbeaten streak and a run to another NCAA tournament.
Pittsburgh, which won 11 matches last season, is coached by Randy Waldrum, who is one of the most accomplished coaches in NCAA history.
He led Notre Dame to national championships in 2010 and ’14, and to 292 wins over 15 seasons at the school. His teams never failed to make the NCAA tournament and eight times advanced to the College Cup, the soccer equivalent of the Final Four.
He coached the Houston Dash of the NWSL for three seasons before returning to the college game at Pittsburgh.
And that’s just opening weekend.
“It was an overall team effort that’s allowed us to build a schedule with so many home games against so many high-quality opponents,” said Citowicki. “We wanted to do it the right way, with high-level teams coming in that people will want to come out and see. It’s a loaded schedule that is really going to test us and prep us for what’s ahead in conference play.”
After hosting Wyoming and playing at Portland to wrap up August, Montana will get MSU Billings and CSU Bakersfield at home the first weekend of September, the same weekend the Montana football team plays its season opener at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
As September continues, the Grizzlies will pair Thursday road matches at Colorado State and Boise State with Sunday home matches against Fresno State and North Dakota State.
That will take Montana, which has won five Big Sky Conference regular-season and tournament championships the last four seasons, into its league schedule.
Montana will open at Sacramento State and Portland State, and close the regular season on the road at Idaho State and Weber State, the team the Grizzlies defeated in last fall’s Big Sky tournament title match.
In between, Montana will host Idaho, Eastern Washington, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona over three weekends.
The six-team Big Sky tournament will be held in Greeley, Colo., the first week of November.
Montana advanced to its sixth NCAA tournament last fall, its third in four years under Citowicki.