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Neil Sedgwick, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Southern California, is headed to Montana.

Sedgwick was named the second head coach in the history of the women's soccer program Thursday, replacing Betsy Duerksen, who resigned after 10 seasons in November.

"I am absolutely excited and thrilled about taking over a program that Coach Duerksen has really developed and taken to great levels in the past," Sedgwick said from Los Angeles on Thursday. "I'm excited about getting on campus next week and meeting the players and starting to work toward continued excellence."

Sedgwick, the Trojans' assistant head coach in 2003, has a wealth of women's soccer coaching experience. He built the University of North Dakota women's program, compiling a 19-15 record in 1999 and 2000. He was the head coach at King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 1993-1995.

During his three years at USC, the Trojan women went to three NCAA tournaments. USC finished the 2001 campaign ranked No. 22.

Much of Sedgwick's previous coaching experience was in Canada. He was an assistant at his alma mater Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, as well as Malaspina University in Nanaimo, B.C. Sedgwick also spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Canadian national women's teams, working with clubs that competed in the Pan Am Games and the World Cup.

"He has some unique qualifications," said Montana associate athletic director Marie Porter. "He has a real variety of coaching experience. We wanted someone who had coached women's soccer, someone who had head coaching experience, and someone with experience in the West, which is typically our recruiting base."

Sedgwick said Montana, Northern and Southern California, and well as Canada will be primary recruiting areas.

"Because of my experience in Canada, the potential is there," he said. "Keeping within the state is certainly a priority."

Sedgwick used terms like "structure" and "pressure" when describing the type of style his Grizzly teams will display.

"I very much like structure," he said. "We certainly look to be highly penetrative in attacking, and putting our opposition under a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure in defending."

Sedgwick was one of roughly 160 candidates who applied for the opening. Porter said she received applications from coaches in South America, New Zealand, Australia and all parts of Europe. Sedgwick was one of two candidates who interviewed.

"We learned a lot through the process," Porter said. "He's incredibly highly regarded by his peers. Soccer coaches and references kept emphasizing two things. One is he's a fantastic soccer tactician. He's got a great soccer mind and he's really progressive. He's high regarded in his ability to teach that.

"Two is preparedness. We certainly saw that in the interview process. People told us that no one will out prepare Neil, not in practice, not in his game plan. Every minute of training is strategically prepared."

Porter said Duerksen's assistants are still on staff.

"At this point, Neil is going to see if the staff that's in place can jell," Porter said. "They certainly have a shot at staying."

Duerksen guided Montana to six straight 12-win seasons from 1995-2000, and led the Grizzlies to three Big Sky Conference championships. UM is coming of an 8-11-2 season.

"I think what was intriguing was the great support in women's soccer," Sedgwick said. "There's great interest in women's soccer. It's not just an add-on sport. The support for the program from the athletic department has been tremendous."

Sedgwick graduated with an education degree from Dalhousie in 1992. He earned his master's in coaching studies from the University of Victoria in 2001. Sedgwick was a two time first team all-Canadian selection at Dalhousie. He played professional soccer in the Canadian Soccer League and played for the Canadian national team in the 1993 University Games.

Sedgwick and his wife Riki will relocate from Redondo Beach, Calif., to Missoula. Neil said Riki is involved in triathlons.

Reporter Jon Kasper can be reached at 523-5247 or by e-mail at jkasper@missoulian.com.

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