Carroll College coach Rachelle Sayers draws up a play during a timeout last season. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)

HELENA – Rachelle Sayers knew the Frontier Conference schedule wouldn’t be easy.

The Carroll College women’s basketball coach tested her Fighting Saints in the non-conference schedule, posting a 10-2 record in games outside of the Frontier Conference, good for the No. 25 ranking in the NAIA.

But the Saints have struggled with league foes, dropping four of their six contests in the Frontier including each of their last three.

“We haven’t been in this situation before, our backs are against the wall as we start round two,” Sayers said. “We know we are a better team than we have shown, but we have to go out and prove it night in and night out. This conference is too strong to think you will survive with just an ok performance or effort.”

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The Fighting Saints played No. 2 Lewis-Clark State tight for three quarters, trailing just 39-36 heading into the final eight minutes last weekend. Sayers says that shows positive momentum.

“I think we took a huge step toward where we need to be at LC, but it’s time to get after it,” Sayers said. “We are looking forward to the match up against Western. They are a great team and playing with a lot of confidence. We must match their energy and play with a major sense of urgency and purpose.”

Western, which has taken over Carroll’s No. 25 ranking in the NAIA, squeaked past the Saints 65-64 back in December on former Helena Capital standout Kaye Bignell’s eventual game-winner. Carroll post Cassidy Hashley admitted seeing the Lady Bulldogs vault past them in the national rankings was a wake-up call, one that has the Saints prepared to play in Dillon later this evening.

Hashley leads the team by averaging a double-double at 16 points and 10 rebounds per game, but anyone from Bailey Pasta to Hannah Dean and Baylee Watson has stepped up for Sayers’ squad throughout the season.

Carroll (12-6, 2-4) and Western (14-3, 3-3) tip at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday night. The Fighting Saints return home Saturday to face Rocky Mountain College.