MISSOULA — Montana senior Kayleigh Valley, who likely would have been named Big Sky Conference preseason MVP next week, will miss the entire 2016-17 season.
Valley suffered a knee injury at practice on Monday. The season-ending nature of the ACL injury was revealed on Tuesday through an MRI.
The 5-foot-11 forward led the Big Sky in scoring last season at more than 21 points per game and was one of three players voted unanimous first-team all-league.
“Obviously this is extremely disappointing for Kayleigh. She was really excited about this season and worked really hard to gear up for her senior year,” said Lady Griz coach Shannon Schweyen.
Unlike a majority of Montana’s freshman players, Valley did not redshirt her first year in the program. She’ll have a fifth season of eligibility available in 2017-18.
“Kayleigh is an incredibly hard worker, so I have full confidence she’ll be back at 100 percent next season,” said Schweyen, who dealt with a serious shoulder injury her senior year at Montana.
“Injuries are a part of being a college athlete. You’re pretty fortunate if you can make it through all four years without having something happen. The one positive is that it happened when it did. It will give Kayleigh a full year to recover.”
Valley, a starter since her sophomore year, was the most indispensable player on this year’s team, which is transitioning from longtime coach Robin Selvig to Schweyen.
Without Valley, who scored a program-record 678 points last season, Montana is down to just two upperclassmen, senior forward Alycia Sims and redshirt junior forward Mekayla Isaak.
Schweyen’s first team has five true freshmen and three other second-year players coming off redshirt seasons. Sims and Isaak are the only two active players who have started in their careers.
“We’re losing not just a great scorer, but an incredible defender, rebounder and passer. Kayleigh is just a do-everything kid, so we’re losing a lot,” said Schweyen.
“Obviously we’re not going to be able to redshirt some of the players we thought might redshirt. We’ll look at different lineups and move kids into different spots and see how they respond. It’s an opportunity for someone to step up.”
Montana will make its public debut on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the Maroon and Silver scrimmage.
— Montana Sports Information