After four weeks of watching her players battle one another tooth-and-nail in preseason practice, coach Shannon Schweyen is excited to have some competition coming to town.
"It's that time of year where you really don't know how good you are until you play somebody else," said the second-year leader of the Montana women's basketball team, which will host Carroll College in an exhibition game Monday at 7 p.m.
"It will be good for us to gauge if we're in shape."
The Lady Griz have endured their share of adversity in October, with senior leaders Kayleigh Valley and Alycia Harris both lost to knee problems. On top of that, their top returning scorer from last season, guard Taylor Goligoski, has been nursing a quadriceps injury.
One positive is that Montana has had three weeks to adjust to life without Valley and Harris.
"If you’re going to lose them, at least this way you have time to prepare and change what you might be looking to do a little bit," said Schweyen, who is hopeful Goligoski will be ready when the season officially starts. "We’ve been doing that a little, starting to tweak things a little bit."
Last Tuesday's Maroon-Silver scrimmage was a sneak preview for Schweyen and her staff. In addition to all the players back from last season, it appears redshirt freshman guard Nora Klick will help the Lady Griz with her sharpshooting and grit.
Montana ranked last in the Big Sky Conference in scoring and shooting consistency last season, so every little bit helps.
"Sierra (Anderson) has been shooting the ball well for us in practice," said Schweyen, referring to her junior mainstay from Washington. "We moved her to the (shooting guard spot) a little bit more and I think that’s been good for her. She likes to get shots and she’s been knocking them down.
"(Point guard) Kenzie (Johnston) has just been solid, good blue-collar work ethic. And (newcomer) Caitlin Lonergan has had some big moments. She's a big strong body in the post."
Lonergan will not be eligible to play in official games until second semester — provided her academics are in order. For that reason, Monday night is the last chance Lady Griz fans will have to see her in game action this year. Same goes for true freshman guard Sophia Stiles and forward Abby Anderson, both of whom are expected to redshirt.
"We’re pretty deep in the post as far as kids that played last year and are ahead of her," Schweyen said of Abby Anderson. "But she’s had some really great moments in practice. She reminds me a lot of (former UM player) Carly Selvig. She’s been scoring a lot in practice, which is encouraging.
"Sometimes redshirts, you hardly notice them in practice. Abby has been competitive and she's got a bright future. But right now we’ve got Hailey (Nicholson) and Jace (Henderson) and Mekayla (Isaak) with the (post) minutes."
Carroll is coached by Schweyen's friend, Rachelle Sayers. She has had to deal with the loss of a key senior post player in all-American Cassidy Hashley of Kalispell.
The Fighting Saints are coming off an 18-13 campaign.
"I think they are hungry," Sayers said. "There was a lot of pressure last year, with extremely high expectations. We had a great preseason and we struggled a bit down the stretch. They understand where things went wrong.
"As a group, coaches and players, we have taken a hard look at our season where to go from here. I think everybody has a chip on their shoulder. They are excited to play."
Sierra Anderson says defense will be critical to Montana's success this season.
"We need to focus on being tenacious," she said. "We will beat teams if we out-hustle them. I'm looking forward to what we can do when we put it all together."