MISSOULA — Montana soccer coach Chris Citowicki knows you won’t find hidden gems without doing some digging.
That’s why he looks into every player who lands in the NCAA transfer portal, whether they played in a Power 5 program or even down an NCAA division.
That’s how he discovered Madi Elcombe, a 5-foot-5 midfielder who spent one year at Division II Simon Fraser, a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference located in Burnaby, B.C.
Elcombe, who accepted a scholarship offer recently, is from Richmond, B.C. She’ll have four years of eligibility at Montana.
“I look at everybody’s film, because you never know who’s in there,” said Citowicki, who has led Montana to the NCAA tournament twice in his first three seasons coaching the Grizzlies.
“I watched her video, and she was outstanding. She is very good at keeping the ball in tight spaces. It’s a unique thing that not a lot of American players are raised with. She just has it.”
What else she has are connections to the Griz soccer program. She has played with both defender Molly Quarry (Bowen Island, B.C.) and goalkeeper Camellia Xu (Port Moody, B.C.) on Team BC.
“That 100 percent helped convince me to come,” Elcombe said. “I’ve played with them before, so it’s nice to already know some people. I know how they play, so I know what I’m getting into.”
Elcombe signed with Simon Fraser in November 2019 and was a first-year member of the team in 2020-21 that never did get on the field due to COVID.
“It’s always been my dream to play in the States and try Division I, so I just decided to go for it this year,” she said. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure Canada would have a season (this fall), but I knew the States were going to have one.
“I heard many great things about the team and coaches and the school, and I love the environment. It reminds me a lot of home, with the mountains. I feel like I’d be at home there.”
Citowicki noticed Elcombe had been coached at one time by Brandon Quarry, who happens to be the uncle of another transfer into the Montana program.
Molly Quarry, at center back, started all 11 games in the spring for a Griz team that went 9-2-0 and pushed South Carolina in a 1-0 loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“He happens to be Molly’s uncle, and that led to conversations about the type of player she is,” said Citowicki. “If we’re bringing someone in, it’s going to be someone like Madi.
Call her the next generation Rita Lang, a player who could face pressure in the midfield and not just escape it but do it while maintaining possession and turning it into an advantage, with the down-the-field threat of distributing or scoring.
“That’s exactly what I want for the way we’re playing now,” said Citowicki. “You don’t want to move the ball into the midfield and lose it. You want people who can keep it in tight spaces and spin out of pressure.
Prior to arriving at Simon Fraser, Elcombe played a number of years in the BC Soccer Premier League and four times was named to Team BC.
She’ll be part of Citowicki’s sizeable incoming class. Montana signed eight prep players to National Letters of Intent in November.