The Montana State University-Northern women’s basketball team went through a difficult stretch in 2010-11. The Skylights played hard and well at times, but things just didn’t go their way. Northern fought injuries and close losses and wound up with just four wins in Frontier Conference play.
But things have gone the complete opposite for head coach Chris Mouat and the Skylights so far in 2012. And MSU-N will look to finish off the year with its 13th win of the season when the Skylights host Mount Royal University on New Year’s Eve day.
After that, the Skylights can look ahead to a rigorous Frontier Conference schedule, one they will certainly be a major factor in. But Mouat can also reflect on just how and why his team has been so successful this season so far, despite injuries, a brutal road schedule and tough home opponents.
Here’s five questions with Northern’s veteran women’s coach as the Skylights gear up for Frontier Conference play.
HDN: What are the major contributors to such a great start?
Mouat: “Chemistry is a big one. This team built great chemistry early on and it’s carried over to the games. And we’ve have had a lot of kids step up. We’ve had some injuries and we’ve been shorthanded at times, but we’ve just had kids continue to step up and do a great job for us. That and the chemistry this team has. They like each other and they really bonded on and off the floor and that’s really carried over into the season.”
HDN: Did this team want to atone for last season or did they just basically start over?
Mouat: “I think they really just did look at this as a fresh start. We have a lot of new players but we also have a lot of returning players and I think they all looked at this season as a clean state and a fresh start. This group worked really hard early and wanted to get off to a good start and fortunately, we have. We have played really well at times.”
HDN: Have there been some surprises so far this year?
Mouat: I would say, the way we gutted out those three wins in Canada back in October. Our fans didn’t get a chance to see those games, but we could have easily came home 1-2. Those games were all tough ones and we really had to do some special things to win two of them. That, and winning two out of three against NCAA Division II teams, that was really good for us. I won’t say any win is a surprise because we prepare for and try to win every game, but those ones were really nice to get.”
HDN: Looking back, how important was it for the Skylights to play that exhibition game against the Lady Griz?
Mouat: “It was a huge challenge. The Grizzlies are so talented and well coached. And we went in there with a pretty new team. It was a great opportunity for us to go and see where we were at and we did. We didn’t out play them by any means but we competed and I was proud of that. We did some things in that game that showed us that if we did those things on a regular basis, we would have a chance to beat anybody else we faced this year.”
HDN: With the Skylights playing so well, what does the Frontier look like this season?
Mouat: “It’s going to be tough. There will be no easy nights. A lot of teams are loaded. And we’ve seen a lot of teams in our league do some great things already this season. For us, we’ll have to play our best every night. That’s what the Frontier is about. The bottom line is, you have to play well in this league, and if you don’t you’ll get beat. It’s just a great league with great teams and a lot of talented players.”
Note: The Havre Daily News will be breaking down the entire Frontier Conference all next week. For stories on the top men's and women's players in the league, see next Tuesday and Wednesday's Havre Daily News sports pages. For complete reports on all of the men's and women's teams, see next Thursday's Havre Daily News sports pages.