(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA — The Montana soccer program, with five Big Sky Conference regular-season and tournament titles the last four years and three trips to the NCAA tournament, keeps winning on the field.
The Grizzlies’ victories off the field, those that come in the recruiting arena, are piling up as well.
“We pulled off some pretty significant recruiting victories against some schools we want to be up against in recruiting battles,” said Montana coach Chris Citowicki, who welcomed six newcomers to his program on Wednesday, the first day of the national signing period.
Five signed National Letters of Intent, one signed a scholarship agreement.
Eliza Bentler, a forward, and Ashlyn Dvorak, a goalkeeper, are both from Billings and remain in state to become Grizzlies, giving the program potentially six Montanans on next fall’s team.
Citowicki looked to the Pac Northwest Soccer Club, one that’s been good to Montana, for Reeve Borseth (Marysville, Wash.), a center back, and Kayla Rendon Bushmaker (Kent, Wash.), a forward.
From the Vancouver Whitecaps, the club that produced Molly Quarry and Camellia Xu, Montana adds midfielder Emma Pascoe (Langley, B.C.), and from Legends FC, the prominent Southern California program from which Caitlin Rogers arrived, comes center mid Maddie Ditta (Riverside, Calif.).
“I’m ecstatic about this class. It’s the one I’ve recruited the longest in my time here. We’ve had eyes on them forever and the relationships are deep,” said Citowicki. “Like our freshman class we have now, there is just something about them. We’ve recruited them for so long, they understand the program. They are not only committing to soccer and winning, they are committing to the way we do things. That’s what makes them special.
“On top of that, we’re keeping the best of the best in Montana. What more could you ask for?”
Bentler and Dvorak have been friends from a young age but attend different high schools. Bentler: Billings Senior. Dvorak: Billings West.
Bentler became a Division I soccer player by scoring goals, Dvorak by keeping balls out of the net.
“Eliza is another star forward coming out of Montana,” said Citowicki. “Her 1-v-1 ability is excellent, she’s a quick finisher in the box and has the pace to fly past opponents into open spaces behind the back line. She will help us continue evolving our attacking style of play for years to come.”
Dvorak will join a goalkeeper group at Montana that is headlined by Xu, who in her first year as a starter, as a redshirt freshman, broke the program record for shutouts in a season with 11 and was named the Big Sky Conference Goalkeeper of the Year.
“We always try to keep the best of Montana at home and Ashlyn is one of those. She’s an amazing goalkeeper who will develop very well,” said Citowicki. “What makes her unique is her ability with her feet. She’s very comfortable coming off of her line, way out of the 18, and possessing out of the back. It’s exactly the kind of goalkeeper we need in order to keep playing this style of soccer.”
Ditta hails from Southern California and used that hotbed of youth soccer to her benefit. She won an ECNL national championship in 2018 with Legends and the 2021 Surf Cup.
“Maddie is a hard-working midfielder who comes to us from Legends, a club that produces players such as our current first-team all-conference defender Caitlin Rogers,” said Citowicki. “She’s very good on the ball, has an incredible engine and also has the ability to break up play on the defensive side of things. She’s as professional as they come and will be great to watch.”
From Pac Northwest, Citowicki brings in Borseth, who attended the ODP National Training Camp last year, and Rendon Bushmaker, a two-time all-league player who scored 18 goals in 15 matches this fall.
“Reeve is an outstanding player who has played at some of the highest youth levels,” said Citowicki. “Not only is she a very intelligent defender but she is fantastic at playing the ball out of the back under pressure. She will help us continue evolving our attacking style of play but she also has the classic no-nonsense defensive attitude that we love to see.
“Kayla is someone we have had our eye on for a long time. Her 1-v-1 ability, quality of final ball into the box and work rate are fantastic. She’s one of those players you just love to watch because she can make something happen out of nothing. Griz Nation is going to enjoy watching Kayla fly down the line.”
Pascoe is a 5-foot-7 midfielder.
“Emma is a Whitecaps product and the next Canadian to join our program. She can play anywhere in the midfield and is one of the best players on the ball we have seen,” said Citowicki. “Her ability to break pressure and move the ball through the thirds is special, but there’s a hardworking and very competitive side of her that will entertain anyone who watches her play.”
Eliza Bentler -- Billings, Mont. (Billings Senior HS)
“I liked the idea of being close to my large family and that the university has a wide range of educational opportunities and a strong academic reputation, combined with the best soccer team in the Big Sky Conference. My older sister and brother also go to Montana and I’m excited to be in school with them again.”
Reeve Borseth -- Marysville, Wash. (Archbishop Murphy HS)
“I chose the University of Montana because it’s a school that instantly felt like home to me. I love the small-town feeling, knowing that everyone is going to be so friendly and welcoming. I know that I am going to get a great education along with being able to play the sport I love with such a great athletic program and coaching staff. Both the school and soccer team are everything that I ever hoped for at a college and I couldn’t be happier!”
Kayla Rendon Bushmaker -- Kent, Wash. (Kentwood HS)
“The team atmosphere is amazing and fun, like a family I can’t wait to be a part of. Everyone wants everyone to succeed and wants to be there. The campus is beautiful and somewhere I see myself growing.”
Maddie Ditta -- Riverside, Calif. (Ramona HS)
“The University of Montana has everything that I am looking for in a college experience. While having an amazing soccer program, Montana also offers what I am seeking academically.”
Ashlyn Dvorak -- Billings, Mont. (Billings West HS)
“I picked the University of Montana because I wanted to stay close to home yet not in the same place where I grew up. I knew that U of M was the place for me since I was in middle school. I have always loved how beautiful Missoula is and I know that academically and athletically I will thrive in this environment because of how dedicated the professors are to their students and how committed the coaches are to their players and vice versa.”
Emma Pascoe -- Langley, B.C. (Burnaby Central Secondary School)
“I love that Missoula is surrounded with tons of mountains and rivers. There are so many outdoor activities, like hiking and paddle-boarding. Everyone I met on my official visit was very friendly, and I love the small-town community. I am looking forward to exploring everything that Missoula has to offer.”