CONCORDIA, Neb. — It's about a 16-hour drive, not including stops, from Helena to Concordia, Nebraska. The stops can and will make the trip longer for the Carroll College women’s basketball team as it gets ready to start its season at the Cattle Classic in Concordia, but that doesn’t mean the Saints are any less excited.
“We're all just kind of excited to get started and get back on the court. No matter where we were going to be playing, we were going to be excited and ready for it," said Carroll College junior Kamden Hilborn. "But definitely hard driving, obviously.”
The Fighting Saints are ranked 20th in the first installation of the NAIA top 25 poll after a 21-10 finish last season. That finish led to an at-large berth into the national tournament before the coronavirus pandemic promptly shut it down a day after the Saints received their bid. In the offseason, Carroll added another prominent Helena figure in Jamie Pickens. The two-time Gatorade player of the year transferred after one season at the University of Montana.
“I'm super excited to start playing. I mean, the trip's hard, but we have a day of rest in between," said Pickens. "I'm just super excited to get on the court and start playing.”
Though the offseason was a tumultuous one, head coach Rachelle Sayers said her players have been resilient through the constant change.
“We kind of really tried to stay focused on the fact if we can't do the things we're used to, do the things that we can," said Sayers. "We really tried to stay positive and optimistic, and obviously we're on the bus going to our first game this season and so we're definitely excited about that.”
The Fighting Saints will open their season on Friday in Nebraska against Dakota State University.