Prior to her season-ending knee injury, Lady Griz forward Kayleigh Valley was voted as the Big Sky's preseason MVP - MTN Sports photo

Story from Montana Sports Information

In an announcement that makes last week’s news even more disheartening, Montana’s Kayleigh Valley was the runaway winner in the voting for this season’s Big Sky Conference preseason MVP award.

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The voting took place prior to last Monday, when Valley, the league’s leading scorer last season and unanimous first-team All-Big Sky selection, suffered a season-ending knee injury at practice.

Because the award is a way to recognize and bring attention to the Big Sky’s top (healthy) player, it was determined that MVP honors would roll down to Montana State senior Peyton Ferris, who received the second-most votes.

Without Valley, Montana had no other players honored as the league office also announced the preseason All-Big Sky Conference team on Monday.

That five-player group was made up of Montana State senior Riley Nordgaard, Eastern Washington junior Delaney Hodgins, Idaho junior Geraldine McCorkell, Sacramento State senior Brianna Burgos and Southern Utah senior Jessica Richardson.

Ferris, voted the league’s Top Reserve last year after averaging 15.0 points on 58 percent shooting, is the leading returning scorer for the Bobcats, who won their first outright Big Sky regular-season title last winter with a 14-4 conference record.

Top-seeded Montana State was upset by No. 9 Idaho State on a last-second shot in the quarterfinals of last year’s Big Sky tournament at Reno. MSU ended its season with a 95-61 loss at Utah nine days later in the opening round of the WNIT.

MSU, expected to be near the top of the preseason polls that get announced on Tuesday, also returns Nordgaard, who was voted Top Newcomer last season after averaging 10.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in her first season in Bozeman after transferring from Augustana (S.D.).

Hodgins was voted second-team All-Big Sky last season after helping Eastern Washington to a surprising second-place finish, one game behind Montana State at 13-5. The Eagles were picked ninth in last year’s preseason poll.

Idaho and North Dakota also finished 13-5 last season to tie for second with Eastern Washington. Montana finished fifth at 12-6.

Hodgins was joined on the preseason All-Big Sky team by Geraldine McCorkell of Idaho, one of two starters back for the Vandals, who won the Big Sky tournament in March as the No. 3 seed to make their third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four years.

Rounding out the preseason All-Big Sky team were Burgos and Richardson, the latter a surprising selection considering it left a number of better players from better teams (Montana’s Alycia Sims and North Dakota’s Makailah Dyer among them) off the squad.

Burgos averaged 14.4 points last season for the seventh-place Hornets, Richardson averaged 12.9 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Thunderbirds, who tied for last at 2-16 in league play with Portland State and Northern Arizona.