HELENA -- On Dec. 7, Carroll College athletics announced its upcoming basketball series against Rocky Mountain College had been canceled and would not be made up. The announcement came just days after the Fighting Saints' season opener against Montana Tech needed to be postponed due to the COVID-19 safety protocols put in place by the Frontier Conference.
This season has proven itself to be a tumultuous one with cancellations and postponements littering the Frontier Conference's opening weekend and the weeks after. Fighting Saints head women's coach Rachelle Sayers called it an emotional roller coaster, but, through the highs and lows of the first month into this season, she said her team is in a place mentally she's never seen before.
"From an Xs and Os standpoint, we're not anywhere near where I thought we would be at this point," Sayers told MTN Sports via Zoom from her office. "I think we're a lot further along as a team from a maturity standpoint than really probably any team I've coached."
Despite the team having a mature demeanor, Sayers noted this time has tried them both mentally and physically.
"It's just kind of an emotional roller coaster, mentally and emotionally challenging," said Sayers. "It's not only, 'Is your team ready and OK to go? Are your opponents ready and OK to go?' And so, you know, when you get those negative test results and you're ready to play, there's that excitement, but then you're waiting on what happens next.”
In a season where five straight games have been either canceled or postponed due to outside factors, it can be easy to only focus on the negatives, but Sayers says there are certainly some positives that can be pulled from it, as well.
"I think all of us will kind of go back to this year and realize that a lot of positives came out of it, even though it's hard to feel that now," said Sayers. "I do feel like we appreciate the opportunities much, much more than maybe another year where we're practicing day after day."
In interviews prior, Sayers said she and her squad are only focusing on the things that they can control. For Sayers, it's about ensuring that her players and her staff not only get through this season, but thrive through it, as well.
"This is a tough time, as we spoke before, emotionally, mentally for these kids, and making sure that we are looking out for one another and we're there for one another through this, because some kids it's harder for than others," said Sayers. "We want to make sure that everybody not only gets through this but comes out of it in a positive way."
The Carroll College men find themselves in a similar boat at 2-1 on the season with their last five games being put on hold. However, men's head coach Kurt Paulson said though it's been frustrating to battle cancellations, they're still well ahead of many programs in terms of games.
"We're lucky because we have played four games. We did a scrimmage and then three counter games. So, we're ahead of most of the teams in our league, at least, at the NAIA level as far as games completed, so we're thankful for that," said Paulson.
Despite the early struggles with cancellations and postponements, Paulson hopes that once teams are able to get into a rhythm, this season will be an enjoyable one.
"You have to adjust and move forward from the circumstances of that week," said Paulson. "Once we accept that fact, I think things will get a lot more fun for the kids and easier when they just know that we have to be on our toes and be flexible.”