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Montana has hired former North Dakota associate head soccer coach Chris Citowicki to take the helm at UM, Montana Athletics announced in a press release Monday morning

According to the release, Citowicki interviewed in Missoula 10 days ago and accepted the job on Friday. His first day on the job will be June 4, but his contract is still pending approval by the Montana Board of Regents. 

“I instantly fell in love with the place. We got off the plane, got on the bus and stopped at a restaurant to eat. I called my wife while I waited outside,” Citowicki said in the release.

Citowicki will be the third Griz soccer coach after Betsy Duerksen launched the program in 1994. He replaces Mark Plakorus, who was ousted after UM officials discovered he used his work cellphone to text back and forth with Las Vegas-based escorts. 

Montana's soccer program is one of the most successful in the Big Sky Conference. In the past seven years, the Grizzlies made the league tournament six times, advanced to the NCAA Tournament once and won the Big Sky Conference title three times. 

“It’s a tremendous program with such a good history. The challenge will be to come in and not splash too much," Citowicki said in the release. "It would be a massive mistake to come in and say we’re changing everything. There are too many good things going on."

According to the release, Citowicki will keep assistant coach Katie Benz on staff.

“It’s being able to recognize the program’s strengths and put the picture together with Katie, who’s a wonderful asset to have," Citowicki said in the release. "It becomes little tweaks here and little tweaks there. Then let’s motivate everyone, make sure everyone is having a good time playing soccer and see where it takes us.”

Citowicki played one season of college soccer at Lock Haven, a Division II school in Pennsylvania. Upon his graduation in 2006, Citowicki was a graduate assistant for two seasons at Bemidji State, a Division II school in Minnesota. He also coached as an assistant at Augsburg, a Division III school in Minnesota. 

After that, he took the reins at St. Catherine. Citowicki led the Wildcats from 2011-16. St. Catherine went 1-17 in that first season and 9-8 in 2012.

“I had a general philosophy when I arrived at St. Kate’s. What those six years allowed me to do was have six years of experimentation to make mistakes and figure out what I believed in," Citowicki said.

The Wildcats went 11-6-2 in Citowicki's final year at the helm and advanced to the semifinals of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament for the first time in program history.

Citowicki made the jump to North Dakota for one season — last season — as an assistant under Chris Logan. 

The Fighting Hawks had a four-win improvement from the 2016 season and came within a tiebreaker of advancing for the first time to the Big Sky Conference tournament.

“Chris brings a high level of energy and a real passion for the overall development of his student-athletes," said Kent Haslam, Montana's athletic director. "I was very impressed with his knowledge of soccer, but I was equally impressed with his enthusiasm and leadership ability.

“He will be a great addition to our department and the University of Montana.”