Havre Daily News Sports Editor
The last three weeks have been a rollercoaster ride for the Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team. The Skylights have started the season off with five home games, two doubleheaders and the loss of a key player to a season-ending injury.
In that time they have learned a lot about what kind of team they are under new head coach Chris Mouat. Now, the Skylights will find out much, much more as they embark on their first road trip of the season.
Northern is in Portland, Ore., for three games in three nights, beginning tonight with Cascade College. The Skylights will also face Warner Pacific College on Saturday and Division I-A Portland State University on Sunday.
“This will be very good for us,” Mouat said. “We have experienced a lot over the last couple of weeks, and we have played some very tough opponents.
“Now it is time to get out on the road,” he said. “We need to go play some tough road games right now and see where we are at.”
All three of the games in Portland will be difficult ones for the Skylights. Tonight's game with Cascade College will be Northern's third in a row against an opponent from the NAIA's Cascade Conference. The Skylights are coming off a split last weekend with Cascade Conference favorite Albertson College.
Cascade College is a young team, but it possesses several senior guards, including two who are returning all-conference players. Tonight's game with the Skylights will be the season-opener for the Thunderbirds.
After a night of rest, the Skylights will resume play on Saturday when they face another member of the Cascade Conference in Warner Pacific College. The Knights are an athletic, experienced team that is expected to contend for a league championship this season.
The third stop on Northern's tour of Portland will be a huge leap up in competition. With no disrespect to the Frontier Conference, or any other team the Skylights have faced or will face this season, the Portland State Vikings of the Big Sky Conference present a whole different type of challenge.
It is one that Mouat is looking forward to.
“It will be a very tough game. There is no question,” Mouat said. “But I think it will be a very good experience for us. This whole road trip will be.”
The Vikings have just one senior returning this season, but junior guard Heather Ames is one of three returning starters to a team that is expected to finish somewhere in the middle of the Big Sky race this season. Saturday's game between PSU and MSU-Northern is an exhibition game for the Vikings.
The Skylights are being led in scoring by senior guard Jaci Heny. The 5-6 guard is averaging almost 19 points per game. DeLayne Johnston, Michele VanDyke and Camille Gardner are also averaging in double digits on the young season.
Tonight's game between Northern and Cascade College will get under way at 7 in Portland. Saturday's game between MSU-N and Warner Pacific will also begin at 7 p.m. Sunday's game at PSU is scheduled to tip off at 3 p.m. All times are Pacific Standard Time.