The odds have been against the Lady Griz all season long. Last season, derailed early on by injuries, became one of the worst in program history. The young team won just four conference games and finished with an overall record of 7-23.
This year, with a healthy roster, Montana had a chance to right those wrongs. But you’ve heard this story by now: Kayleigh Valley and Alycia Harris suffered injuries again and two-thirds of Montana’s senior class now sit at the end of the bench in street clothes.
Still, the young Lady Griz, who gained invaluable experience last year, continued to defy the odds. They were winning often, jumping out to a 5-1 start in Big Sky Conference play and sitting atop the standings for much of the first half of conference play.
But another injury, this time to star freshman Sophia Stiles, appeared to have brought Montana’s season crashing down. In a last second win against North Dakota, Stiles went down with a knee injury. It was an ACL tear, sidelining Stiles for the rest of
The freshman had replaced a senior, Mekayla Isaak, in the
starting lineup for Montana and changed its identity. She brought defensive toughness and an energetic presence to a Lady Griz team that had lacked a defensive stopper on the perimeter.
The loss hurt Montana. An already stacked deck was tipped even further against them. A star was born out of necessity, but the injury bell rang for her just the same.
Since then, the Lady Griz have lost four consecutive games, knocking them out of the race for the regular season Big Sky crown. On the road against Portland State and Sacramento State, the team lost by 17 and 15, respectively. Earlier in the season in Missoula, the Lady Griz beat the two teams by a combined 25 points.
Montana returned home for the first time since Stiles’ injury last week. Against Eastern Washington on Thursday, it started slow, trailing by as many as 14 in the first quarter. It was a similar story on Saturday against Idaho, when Montana trailed 20-5 at the end of the first.
The Lady Griz aren’t done fighting the odds. They didn’t stop last weekend, when they brought both games back within five points in the second half before comebacks came up short in the end. They haven’t all season long, dodging every obstacle put in front of them from the start to exceed expectations.
Without Stiles, it looks like the odds will be too much to overcome. But don’t tell that to Shannon Schweyen and company, who continue to fight to the buzzer night in and night out.