HELENA — Following the release of the 2023-24 NAIA preseason women's basketball coaches poll, Carroll College again finds itself among the top 10.
The Saints — who went 26-7 overall and 14-1 in the Frontier last year — sit at No. 6 in the preseason poll, only two spots behind No. 4 Indiana Wesleyan, which visits Carroll on Friday for a battle between highly ranked teams. Carroll's No. 6 ranking is the second highest in program history.
“This is a new year, we have new players, every year’s different,” says coach Rachelle Sayers, the matriarch of the Carroll program for the past 11 years. “We really don’t even talk about last year.
“We have to always keep the focus on us and how we’re going to get better. Our goals are always the same, they’re always about the effort we're going to put forth and what we’re going to do to ensure that we give ourselves a chance to be successful when it really matters, which is end of February and March.”
Jamie Pickens, who is using her extra COVID year of eligibility, started all 33 games for the Saints last year while averaging 17.6 points with about eight rebounds per game. She was named a first-team All-American.
“I wouldn’t say it’s pressure, it’s like motivation for us, we’ve had the target on our back for a while now, (and) we have been able to turn that into something good so we’ll keep doing that," Pickens said.
“We’re going to be menaces in the conference, so it’s going to be a super fun year. We’re just going to take it day in and day out. We just really respect the game and want to have fun. It’s going to be a good season though.”
Carroll finished the season last year at No. 11 in the national poll, (after being ranked No. 4 in the preseason) and made it all the way to the Round of 16 at the 2023 NAIA national tournament after winning the regular-season and tourney titles in the Frontier.
“It is a long year, they love to compete. We’re still learning, we’re still growing and still learning how to play together and that part just takes time,” Sayers said.