MISSOULA – The Montana Lady Griz have played the 30th-toughest schedule in the country to this point. All to get ready for what’s next. Big Sky Conference play tips off this Saturday, and the 5-4 team appears to have some help on the way.
Sophomore guards Sophia Stiles and Sammy Fatkin both played in an exhibition win over Montana Tech last week. Stiles has been sitting out after tearing her ACL last February, while Fatkin just got cleared to play by the NCAA after transferring from Arizona.
Head coach Shannon Schweyen won’t comment on the status for each but did say one of the two will play this weekend, and the other may still sit out and redshirt this season. Stiles became a star last year, while Fatkin was playing 28 games for a Pac-12 team, so the addition of either is a big boost.
“We’ve been so scared to do too much to where we might put any of our perimeter kids in foul trouble with the lack of depth,” said Schweyen. “Just having one more kid who can run things for us and operate the offense and give us good defense on the perimeter is much needed. There are a lot of talented guards in the league, so having some people who are capable of getting out there and defending on the perimeter is going to be a big help.”
With either Stiles or Fatkin joining the ranks, the Lady Griz add at least one weapon to a much-improved offense. Poor shooting has continued to plague Montana teams over the past several years, but the current squad is hitting 43 percent from the field, the second-best mark in the conference.
“I think this group has been very attentive as far as understanding what kind of selection we’re looking for in people’s shots this season,” explained Schweyen. “They’re buying into the fact that we need to be patient and really work for good ones.”
“Our shot selection has been a big piece of that, and then confidence,” said senior forward Jace Henderson, who is shooting 55 percent from the field while scoring 9.8 points per game. “I think our girls have really taken the time in the offseason to shoot a lot of game-like shots at high intensity. So they’ve trained for those shots.”
Meanwhile, the news is not as good for Madi Schoening. The junior, who has started the past two years, will sit out all season with a foot injury. Schoening played right away as a true freshman, so she can redshirt and still have two years of eligibility remaining.
The Lady Griz will open conference play against Northern Arizona at 2 p.m. Saturday in Dahlberg Arena.