(Editor's note: Montana athletics press release.)
MISSOULA — The Montana women’s basketball team, under third-year head coach Brian Holsinger, won’t have to wait long for a chance to make a big statement this season.
The Lady Griz will open the regular season hosting Gonzaga and Washington State inside Dahlberg Arena, NCAA tournament teams from a year ago that both return four starters.
The Bulldogs, who Montana opens with on Monday, Nov. 6, went 28-5 last season and advanced to their 14th NCAA tournament since 2006-07, which was the last time Montana knocked off Gonzaga.
The Cougars, who the Lady Griz host on Nov. 14, won 23 games last season and four times in five days to storm their way to the Pac-12 tournament title in March.
For a team with big dreams, for a program hoping to reestablish the success of decades past, it couldn’t be scripted any better to awaken the echoes.
“They will be big games and a great test, and we get them at home. To have two teams who will be in the top 25 or pushing to get into the top 25 in Missoula will be fantastic,” said Holsinger.
Montana also returns four starters in sixth-year senior Carmen Gfeller, fifth-year senior Gina Marxen, junior Dani Bartsch and sophomore Mack Konig, last year’s Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year.
The Lady Griz return four other letter-winners, added three players via transfer and brought in three impact freshmen in Macy Donarski, Macey Huard and Adria Lincoln.
Joining the team as offseason transfers were junior guard MJ Bruno (Portland), fifth-year guard Maggie Espenmiller-McGraw (Iowa State) and redshirt junior center Imogen Greenslade (Arizona State).
“I like our talent,” said Holsinger. “I think we have the ability to compete top to bottom talent-wise. How quickly we mesh will be the most important thing.
“(Gonzaga and Washington State) have had a bunch of kids there for a long time and we just haven’t, so how we mesh over the next month will be important.”
Fans can get their first look at the Lady Griz at the Maroon-Silver scrimmage on Tuesday, Oct. 17. Montana will host Saint Martin’s in an exhibition game on Nov. 1.
After hosting Gonzaga and Washington State, Montana will travel to Grand Canyon, a 21-win team last season, before returning home for three games: Dickinson State, Loyola Marymount and Colorado State.
The Loyola Marymount game on Wednesday, Dec. 6, will be the Lady Griz School Day Game. Colorado State won 20 games last season and advanced to the WNIT, its seventh postseason trip since 2014.
Montana will close out its pre-Christmas schedule with a three-game trip to California to face Cal Poly, then San Diego and UC San Diego at USD’s tournament.
League will open at home against Weber State and Idaho State on Dec. 29 and 31.
Montana will then play its final nonconference games, at home against South Dakota and at Nebraska-Omaha, as part of the Big Sky Conference-Summit League Challenge.
League play will resume with a road trip to Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona the second week of January. Montana will face Montana State in Bozeman on Jan. 20, in Missoula on Feb. 17.
Montana went 14-16 a year ago and finished fifth in the Big Sky with a 10-8 league record. The Lady Griz, who lost four Big Sky games by two points or fewer, finished three games out of first place.
Montana returns 80.6 percent of its scoring from last season, nearly 80 percent of its rebounding.