By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
In most situations, losing usually tears teams apart. But not for the Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team. Nope, losing has only brought the Skylights closer together.
After rolling to a 5-1 start, Northern received a bit of an eye-opener with three consecutive losses last weekend on a four-day North Dakota road trip.
"Honestly, I think we got more out of three losses than we would have if we would have gotten three wins," said Skylights head coach Mike Erickson. "It was an eye-opener for us. Our mindset has changed. We know it's going to take a lot more hard work and discipline to win games."
Exactly what went wrong in North Dakota? Well, Erickson has a fairly long list. But it all starts with mentality.
"In the games we've won this season, we've been down and pulled them out in the last few minutes," Erickson said. "I think they thought it would happen every night. But it didn't, and now they realize they can be beat."
Still, even with the things that went wrong, there were plenty that went right.
"The ladies are still positive and upbeat," Erickson said. "They are really starting to gel as a team. If anything, it brought us closer together than spreading us apart. Hopefully, it will pay dividends down the road."
Speaking of roads, the Skylights will be back on it again, well, sort of. Northern will be in Great Falls this weekend for the Argo Invitational at UGF's McLaughlin Center. Actually, Erickson doesn't consider traveling to the Electric City a road trip.
"We're counting this as a homestand," he said. "It seems like we play pretty good down there. The girls will get to sleep in their own beds and we will have some fans there which always helps."
The Skylights will open the tournament tonight against Notre Dame De Namur University of Belmont, California. The Argos, as they are also nicknamed, are 0-2 on the season.
"They haven't had a lot of success in the past," Erickson said "They are a very guard-oriented team that's quick and aggressive. They're going to pressure us in the half-court."
Notre Dame features just one senior, transfer Elise De Groot, who comes in after three years with Frontier foe Lewis-Clark State. The rest of roster is littered with freshmen, sophomores and one junior.
On Saturday, the Skylights will face their fifth DAC-10 team of the season in the Black Hills State Yellowjackets. So far, Northern is 1-3 against the DAC-10, but Erickson hopes their record will improve. It won't be easy though. The Yellowjackets were picked to finish fourth in the conference this season, after finishing third in the conference last year with a 14-14 record.
BHS returns three starters from last year, led by 6-0 Becca Walters, who averaged 10 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. The Jackets have several key newcomers including 6-0 senior transfer guard Alisa Doolan and 6-2 guard Snjezana Dojcinovic of Zagreb, Croatia.
"They're no pushover," Erickson said. "The size of their guards is going to cause some match-up problems for us."
However, right now, Erickson is more concerned with his team. He is even tweaking his offensive attack.
"We're going to a little more guard oriented with more of a motion offense," Erickson said. "We're getting used to each other so we're trying to give them a little more freedom on offense."
The biggest thing Erickson is looking for is that change in mindset.
"We need to come out focused and ready to play," he said. "We can't sit back and hope to come back in the end. It has to start right away."
Northern will tip off both nights at 6 p.m.