University of Montana senior forward Alycia Sims will miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury. (Photo courtesy UM athletics)

University of Montana athletics release

Thirty-six days after losing an indispensable upperclassman to a season-ending injury, the Montana women’s basketball team lost another on Tuesday night during the team’s home win over Great Falls.

It was confirmed on Thursday that senior forward Alycia Sims, who had the same injury to her left knee as a freshman in high school, tore the ACL in her right knee and will miss the rest of the season.

“Obviously we’re very disappointed for Alycia,” said first-year coach Shannon Schweyen. “She’s a stoic player, so for her to show that kind of emotion when she went down, we were pretty sure it was going to be a serious injury.”

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It was the second major setback for a team that began the season short on experience, even before any injuries.

Senior forward Kayleigh Valley, the Big Sky Conference preseason MVP, suffered the same injury last month at the team’s fourth practice of the season.

Between the graduation of last year’s senior class, the offseason departure of Rachel Staudacher and now the loss of Valley and Sims, Montana is without more than 88 percent of its scoring from a season ago.

The Lady Griz are now down to an active roster of junior Mekayla Isaak and 11 underclassmen, eight of whom are true or redshirt freshmen.

“We’ll persevere,” said Schweyen, whose team faces South Dakota State, the nation’s top-ranked mid-major team, on Saturday morning in Iowa City. “We’ll have to reinvent our identity again, but this certainly changes our depth in the frontcourt.

“Alycia was a high-percentage shooter and a productive scorer and defender, so we’ll be losing some valuable minutes. We’ll need someone to step up and fill those shoes and those minutes.”

Sims played as a true freshman, so she has a redshirt season available should she choose to use it. But her return feels less certain than does Valley’s.

Sims, who ranked third in the Big Sky in rebounding last season, practiced — at times on a limited basis — and played the last two seasons while dealing with both back and knee issues.

In addition to getting her right knee repaired in the coming weeks, she’ll use the down time during recovery to also undergo additional work on her left knee, which has a meniscus that needs removing and some painful bone chips that need to be cleaned out.

“Having had the same injury before, in some ways it makes it easier, because I know what to expect,” said Sims. “But at the same time the idea of a second reconstruction is a scary thought, and that almost makes it harder.

“It would be great to come back for one more year, but at this point I just need to focus on getting healthy. Hopefully the answer about my future will come to me with time and I’ll figure out what I want to do next year.”