The dawn of a new season in NAIA women’s basketball is here.
And the Montana State University-Northern Skylights will kick off their season with three games on their home floor. Starting tonight at 8, the Skylights will host the Duck Inn/JDRF Classic at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse. The tournament features MSU-N, LaSierra College from Riverside, Calif., Northwest University, a Cascade Conference member from Kirkland, Wash., and Carroll College.
Tonight, Northern will make its season debut against LaSierra, an NAIA Division II first-year member, then play Northwest at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. The Skylights will wrap up the tournament with another game against LaSierra at 7 p.m. on Saturday night.
Other games in the tournament, which will help raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, include Carroll against Northwest tonight at 6, the Saints against LaSierra at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and the Saints taking on Northwest again at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
And with three games in three days, MSU-N head coach Chris Mouat is looking forward to seeing his new-look team in action.
“Right away, we need to defend and rebound,” Mouat said. “Those things are going to be mainstays for us all season, and in this first three games we need to do them well right away. “Shooting, baskets, those things are going to come and go, but we really need to get out and defend right away, and we need to play smart, physical basketball. Those are the things that I’m looking to see us do this weekend.”
LaSierra is somewhat of an unknown to Mouat and the Skylights, who went 16-15 last season and finished fourth in the Frontier Conference. But their other opponent, Northwest University is a familiar foe. The Skylights played the Eagles at a tournament last year in Olympia, Wash., and while the Skylights won 82-73, the game was a tight battle throughout.
“Northwest will be very solid,” Mouat said. “They return some really good players and they signed a couple of really solid players. They have good size, very good guards and are just a solid all-around team, so we’re going to have to play very well in that game.
“We’re going in a little cold against LaSierra,” he continued. “We don’t have a lot on them, but it appears that they are athletic and have good guards. So, like with any game this season, we’re going to have to be ready to play.”
Tonight will be the debut for the new-look Skylights, who are almost brand new in the post with the additions of Courtney Blume, Stren Tramelli and Valerie Gee. However, Northern’s backcourt will feature returning all-conference guards Samm Schermele and Taylor Keller, as well as the return of Malta standout Laramie Schwenke. Add to that transfers Monica Hollowell, Nicole Wilk and Kylee Denham and the Skylights appear to be loaded on the perimeter. And without sophomore center Laci Keller, this season, fellow sophomore Jordan Bruursema, an outstanding guard in her own right, will see plenty of time in the paint.
“We’re excited to get started,” Mouat said. “This is a new team, and there will be some ups and downs, but we’re looking forward to getting this season started and start building this new team.”
Tonight’s game between the Skylights and Golden Eagles of LaSierra College will tip off at 8 at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.