GREAT FALLS — The 2023-24 women’s college basketball season is less than a week away, as the first non-conference game is scheduled to tip off on Oct. 24.
During the Frontier Conference media day, which was held via zoom on Wednesday, the preseason coaches poll was released with Carroll College being selected as the favorite to win their second straight conference title. The Fighting Saints have won four of the past six conference championships.
Carroll is coming off a 27-6 season where it finished in the round of 16 of the NAIA national tournament. The Saints will be returning preseason all-conference guard Kyndall Keller and reigning Frontier Conference co-player of the year Jamie Pickens. Pickens was also selected as the preseason MVP.
Despite going 174-43 in the last six years, head coach Rachelle Sayers only focuses on the year ahead rather than the success in the past.
“We don’t even talk about last year. It’s a new year this year, and we’re just working to get better, so what happened last year is in the past for us,” said Sayers. “We don’t really talk about it. We don’t talk about the polls. We just talk about trying to get better every day.”
Following the Saints in the polls is the University of Providence, which received one first-place vote. The Argos added Ashlee Maldonado, a graduate transfer from NCAA Division I Santa Clara University. Tied with Providence for second place is Rocky Mountain College. A two-way tie for fourth place was split between 2022-23 runner-up Montana Western and MSU-Northern. Rounding out the coaches poll is Montana Tech.
Montana Western promoted last year's assistant coach, Britt Cooper, following the resignation of 11-year head coach Lindsay Woolley. Cooper was part of the 2019 Western team that won the NAIA national championship, and she hopes to bring that championship experience to the team.
“I think I just understand what the work ethic is, what it takes to get there, and the relationships among the girls that we need to have,” said Cooper. “I’m trying to instill the same mindset in them that if you want it, it’s out there and you just have to work hard enough for it. I think for the most part we have that mindset. It’s just going to be an uphill battle, but if we understand that I think it’s going to be OK.”