BUTTE — The Montana Tech Lady Orediggers are projected to finish last in the Frontier Conference, according to the coaches around the league, a statement that doesn’t surprise the team.

“We are always at the bottom (in the preseason rankings),” said guard Monica Landdeck. “I don’t know why.”

While not surprising, the Diggers do believe that that ranking is far from accurate.

“We definitely are not at the bottom and I think we’ll prove that this year,” Landdeck added confidently.

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Conference play tipped off on Nov. 28, and the women are already looking plenty motivated by this challenge. The team is 0-2 through the first two games, but the record doesn’t tell the whole story.

“We were up by 14 at the half against (Lewis and Clark State) — that’s saying something.” Landdeck said. “That’s just saying we can compete with anyone.”

Tech had the NAIA’s second-ranked Warriors on the ropes on Dec. 2 but fell victim to a 15-point comeback, capped by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Four days prior, Tech came up just short of defeating No. 16 Montana Western in Dillon. No team likes to lose, but for a team forgotten by coaches around the league, it was a welcome opening to head coach Carly Sanon.

“There are a lot of positives — a lot of upside — from how we played,” she said. “Now, we just got to tighten up some things that we’re making mistakes on. If we do that, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

The Orediggers are beginning to turn heads and are doing so with a young roster. Landdeck is the lone senior on a squad that sees three true freshmen make regular rotations. Their contributions have been key to the team’s start.

“Our young players have stepped in and have done a really good job,” Sanon said. “And I feel like our upperclassmen are giving us the leadership we need to keep moving forward.”

One of the freshmen, Mesa Williams, led all scorers against L-C State with 23 points, including a pair of clutch 3s in the closing moments of the contest.

“Us freshmen (and) sophomores have to be able to come in and score and rebound,” she said. “If we can’t do that, we might be in trouble some games.”

Montana Tech has not really been in trouble, despite dropping the first two games of conference action, and the results from the first week have the squad feeling confident going forward.

“We’re working on (our weaknesses),” said Landdeck. “Once we get (those) down, we can beat anyone.”

The Orediggers will have some time in the lab before returning to Frontier action. Tech will play two games against Canadian schools at the end of December before a Jan. 4 date with Montana State-Northern.