Montana Football Program Signs Six National Letters of Intent | Montana grizzlies


MISSOULA — The Montana football program has signed six high school players with national letters of intent.

Coach Chris Citowicki, who completed his fifth season in charge of the Grizzlies earlier this month, added players from Washington, Oregon, Utah, Minnesota and Georgia.

On the defensive side of the field, he signed goalie Bayliss Flynn (Edina, Minn./Edina HS), fullback Lucie Rokos (Portland, Oregon/Jesuit HS) and center back Riley Carolan (Seattle, Wash./Bishop Blanchet HS).

On the other side: forwards Abby Smith (Corvallis, Ore./Crescent Valley HS) and Taija Anderson (Bluffdale, Utah/Real Salt Lake Academy), and midfielder Perrin Pennington (Athens, Ga./Oconee County HS ).

Citowicki led Montana to three NCAA tournaments and two Big Sky Conference regular season championships in five seasons.

“This group adds to what we have and allows this thing to continue,” Citowicki said. “They will allow us to continue to be the program that we are.

“Some of them could impact pretty quickly. There’s a superstar in there. I don’t know which one. I’m delighted to have them here.

Flynn was recently selected to compete next month in the High School All-American Game in Panama City, Florida. She is just one of four goalkeepers for the East and West teams. The others are committed to Ohio State, Boston College and Kansas.

“Really thrilled to add a player of her caliber. Just incredibly talented,” said Citowicki, who has two-year-old starter Camellia Xu, the 2021 Big Sky Goalkeeper of the Year, on her roster, as well as ‘Ashlyn Dvorak, a highly ranked signee in last year’s class who has just completed her first season.

“Bayliss adds to a group that is incredibly talented and needs to be because they push each other to be better. The shot-stopping ability, the ability to distribute with her feet and classic goalkeeping bravery, she has that personality. Whatever it takes, I don’t drop the ball in the goal.

Rokos plays for one of the best high school programs in the country and the Portland Thorns club. She’s 5-foot-4 on the outside, the same height as another recent Grizzly who brought her skills to the NWSL.

“She can cross a ball, she is athletic. It’s sort of a miniature Taylor Hansen. I’m really excited about all she can offer us,” Citowicki said.

“Watching her play, with her ability to go up and down the line, she plays recklessly but somehow she always comes away with the ball. She just doesn’t know how to hold back. Having that kind of attitude in a defender is pretty good.

Carolan is a 6-foot centre-back who joins a program that has a successful history of commanding and commanding defenders in that position.

“Riley is big and strong, but also incredibly athletic,” Citowicki said. “She is good in the air, physical. Everyone hugs her and she still heads the ball.

She gives a big bookend to 5-foot-10 forward Delaney Lou Schorr, who led the Big Sky in goals in the regular season. His seven goals came out of his head.

“Watching (Carolan) play this summer and his dominance in the air, you now have two people who can stand up and put their heads on the ball,” Citowicki said. “And not just the head, but hitting it into the goal.”

Pennington would give Montana its first Georgia player, but it was her family’s brief stay in Seattle that led her to become a Grizzly.

“That’s how she ended up hearing about us and developing a fondness for the area,” Citowicki said. “This part of the country has remained in his heart.”

She played for OL Reign Academy when she lived in Seattle. In Georgia, she plays for Tophat Soccer Club.

“She can play as a winger, she can play as a midfielder,” Citowicki said. “She came to our camp and was just awesome. It’s another Sydney (Haustein). She is solid.

“Knowing that players like Sydney will be graduating, you feel good because you have a Perrin in the program. You know the next generation is here to continue the success in midfield.

Despite Montana’s relative proximity to Utah, the Grizzlies have had only two players from the state in program history: Raquel Watts and McKenzie Warren, who was a senior on Citowicki’s first team, in 2018.

Anderson, who plays for Real Salt Lake Academy, makes it a third.

“I wanted to find a player outside of Utah and she plays at the best club there, on a top ECNL team, and she turned out to be available,” Citowicki said.

“It turns out that we are perfectly suited for each other. She has a ton of speed and is a good 1v1 finisher. She is a very athletic winger who can cause a lot of damage.

Smith is a high scoring forward from Crescent Valley High. She scored a hat trick on senior night last month and her team’s only goal on Tuesday as the Raiders qualified for the Class 5A title game with a 1-0 win over North Eugene.

“Abby is a goalscorer. That’s all she’s ever done and usually outside of 18. She’s got a hell of a shot,” Citowicki said.

“That’s all she wants to do, that’s all she likes to do. She could be a big difference maker for us with her work ethic and commitment.

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