The Miles Community College women’s basketball team finished its regular season at 21-1 after a loss on Thursday night to Williston State but as the MonDak Conference champions. Success for the Pioneers really shouldn’t be surprising.
They’re led by a tight-knit cast of players from all over the world, including a pipeline to Australia that’s produced some really talented players. Moving stateside to Montana, though, has been a bit of a shock.
“Never experienced anything like it, just how relaxed everybody is," freshman Kate Tanner said. "Coming from Melbourne, it’s such a big city and there’s always so much going on. Just traffic, for example. There’s a lot of traffic, and there’s like no cars on the road (in Miles City). But also the lack of restaurants and shops that it has compared to Melbourne was a really big change.”
“I hadn’t seen snow before I moved here. It wasn’t that cold. The start of this year got freezing. That was cool to see the snow, though," said freshman Rebekah Dallinger, who is from Sydney, Australia.
There are eight total international players on MCC’s roster, including four from Australia. Relationships built growing up influenced the decision to play for the Pioneers, but it’s also helped develop team chemistry much quicker.
“We all get along super well. Everyone is really open to learning everyone else’s culture," said sophomore Lili Long, a native of Melbourne. "The Americans and Spaniards have taught us a lot and we teach them a lot, as well. We all hang out. We’re all training together, hang out outside of basketball every day.”
“It was just a matter of time before we all got to know each other well enough that all of our personalities were jelling well enough together. You’ll find that there are a lot of other big personalities on the team, mine is probably the biggest, but all our personalities complement each other really nicely and it just works well," Tanner said. "It’s just proved on the court that off the court is just as important as being on the court, as well.”
MCC keeps the atmosphere light, even in games. From cracking jokes to dancing during timeouts with just minutes on the clock, having fun has been a key component of the Pioneers’ run.
“That’s who we are. We’ve recruited a team full of girls that are, to put it simple, just a bunch of dorks. We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we take our jobs seriously. We like to have an environment of having fun," Miles Community College head coach Taylor Harris said. "This is a game. So we really just want to have fun and we want people to be OK with being themselves, having that goofy personality and it’s OK. You’re accepted. It’s OK to be loose and have fun. It doesn’t have to be that business that people associate with college athletics. We’re here to have fun.”
The Pioneers will have business to handle next Thursday in the Region 13 semifinal at home. MCC is just two wins from a berth at the NJCAA Division I basketball championships.