MISSOULA — Montana Lady Griz players Caitlin Lonergan and Sierra Anderson have decided to end their college basketball careers to concentrate on academic endeavors.
Lonergan, a junior-to-be forward and arguably the most pleasant surprise for coach Shannon Schweyen's team this past season, is pursuing a nursing degree. The Bozeman native averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in a reserve role.
"Obviously Caitlin leaving was surprising to us," Schweyen told 406mtsports.com. "She did a job shadowing with a nurse this year and fell in love with that.
"She has lost her love of wanting to compete anymore and do athletics. She wants to move forward with school. You have to understand that's where her heart is and we wish her the best."
Anderson, a senior-to-be guard, started nine games for Montana this past winter. She averaged 3.1 points per game.
"Sierra was a great player for us and was a part of a lot of wins," Schweyen said. "She was voted as team captain this last year and showed great leadership. We'll certainly miss her."
Anderson is pursuing master's degrees in business administration and public administration.
"It's very rare for a women's basketball player to be part of something that's so deeply rooted in tradition and being a part of what (former coach) Robin (Selvig) built was an amazing experience for me," Anderson said. "I'm very grateful I was given the opportunity to be part of something that has such a great tradition and has meant so much to people throughout Montana."
Lonergan and Anderson are two of five players the Lady Griz have lost who would have been eligible to play this coming season. Kayleigh Valley decided to call it quits in part because she would only be eligible to play part of the 2018-19 season. Hailey Nicholson left the program so she could play on the same team as her sister at MSU Northern. Nora Klick departed because of chronic back issues.
The good news for the Lady Griz is they return four starters — five if you include Sophia Stiles, who started several games before injuring her knee — and a solid group of reserves. Montana will also welcome four highly-touted recruits in the fall.