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Frontier Notebook: Western women have done more than just reload

Frontier Conference Notebook


Last updated 2/4/2020 at 8:19am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Kenya Lorton looks to score during a Frontier Conference game against Montana Western in Havre in December. The Bulldogs have moved into second place in the Frontier standings, ahead of Saturday night's game against the Skylights in Dillon.

When the Montana State University-Northern Skylights and Montana Western Bulldogs hook up Thursday night in Dillon, the game is going to be a tale of two very different experiences so far this season.

Make no mistake, both the Skylights and Bulldogs have found plenty of success at times in the Frontier thus far, but, in much different ways.

Northern started strong, including beating the Bulldogs back in December in Havre. However, throughout the Skylights' first 10 games in league play, the biggest story has been injuries. MSU-N has had to be without the services of star point guard McKenzie Gunter, stellar forward Tiara Gilham, backup point guard Morgan Mason, talented shooting guard Reilly Walsh and returning forward Jada Nicholson at one point or another this season, and, in games two weeks ago, that group was out together. Now, the Skylights feel snakebit again, because star senior Hailey Nicholson suffered a gruesome ankle injury in last Friday's game against Lewis-Clark State. No timetable for Nicholson's return has been given, and head coach Chris Mouat isn't looking for excuses, but, the loss is a devastating one given the way Nicholson has been playing in her final year as a Skylight.

Meanwhile, Western hasn't gone through the type of injuries the Skylights have.. Instead, the Bulldogs have risen to second place in the Frontier by reloading.

After winning the NAIA national championship last March, head coach Lindsey Woolley's team would lose five of its top six scorers from the title team, including national POY Bri King. So, while many doubted Western's ability to compete after such heavy losses, here the Dawgs are, with eight games left in the regular season, they're just a half game out of first place in the Frontier and knocking on the door of earning their way back to Billings to defend their title.

New faces and young talent rising up have been one key to Western's success, but an old key is also still in play. Western was third in scoring defense in the NAIA last year, and now into February, the Dawgs are sixth in the NAIA in scoring defense.

So, Thursday night's game in Dillon will be an interesting one to watch, because, while they've taken different paths to get here, the Skylights and Dawgs have a lot to play for over the next month.

The Race is On

It's the final month of the regular season, and the title chases on both the men's and women's sides couldn't be more wide-open, with one exception.

On the men's side, if Lewis-Clark State keeps playing the way it is right now, no one in the league is going to catch the Warriors. LC State has won 12 straight games and sits at 9-1 in the Frontier, two full games clear of Carroll, and three ahead of both Providence and Montana Tech. The Frontier standings also look a little top-heavy right now, with three teams, Northern, Rocky Mountain College and Western all trying to fight their way back to .500.

The women's picture is way more unstable right now. LC State and Western are tied atop the standings, while Carroll is just one game back, and Rocky is just two back at 5-5. Even Northern and Providence, which have proven to be dangerous, are just three games off the pace, and very much in the hunt heading into the final four weeks of the season.

A legend in the Frontier

For the second week in a row, there is some football news to be told. Former Northern Arizona head coach, and longtime Montana Grizzly Jerome Souers has returned to coaching, as he was recently named the defensive coordinator at Southern Oregon. Souers was the head coach at NAU for over 20 years, retiring in 2018. He was also the defensive coordinator on Montana's 1995 national championship team.

Frontier Honors

Lewis-Clark State's Jansen Edmiston was named the Frontier Conference Women's Player of the Week. She averaged nearly 20 points per game in wins over MSU-Northern and Providence.

Carroll sophomore Jovan Sljivancanin was named Frontier Men's Player of the Week. He averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds last week in wins over Rocky and Western.

Northern's Peyton Kehr and Mascio McCadney were nominated.


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