HELENA — Carroll College women’s basketball true seniors Kamden Hilborn and Sienna Swannack will be returning to the court for a fifth year allowed by the NAIA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision to continue for a fifth year was a seemingly simple one for the guard duo.
“For me, I think, given the opportunity to come back and get to play with a team in a program like ours, it was kind of a no-brainer. And then just as far as basketball, and college goes, like, you only get to do this one time. Like we're only going to play college basketball one time. And so to be able to spend just one more year doing it seemed like just kind of a perfect deal. And then having a school as good as Caroll, obviously, being able to further our education, I think just kind of been to a nice little package for one more year of staying around,” Hilborn said.
Hilborn is a health science major with a minor in chemistry and will be spending her fifth year at Carroll finishing her chemistry minor, and taking physics.
Similarly for Swannack, the decision was an easy one.
“I pretty much knew right when we got the option to take our COVID year that I was gonna stay even though I didn't have much school left to do. I just wanted to be here as long as I could in this program under coach Sayers,” she said.
Swannack will use her fifth year to finish up her civil engineering degree.
Swannack was Hilborn’s host during her visit at Carroll (when transferring from Montana State University), and they hit it off immediately. Now, the pair are roommates, and closer than ever, so it was no surprise that they were a factor in each other’s decisions to come back.
“All of the super seniors that we had last year all stuck around. And so I think for us, it was kind of like, ‘why not?’, it's kind of built into the culture here. And just enjoying basketball so much and enjoying each other, and each other's company. I think we both said to each other, ‘you're staying right?, like I'll stay if you stay’ and it was kind of from there,” Hilborn said.
Another big reason to stick around was that they have unfinished business to attend to.
“I definitely think we feel like we have more to give to the program and more to prove and get to the success of our program. And I think last year, like as much as we did have success, there were like, small let downs in between there, obviously, conference championship, conference tournament, and then just only making it to the Sweet 16. Like, we know, we could go farther. So I think that's not necessarily weighing on us, but definitely motivating us to get in the gym this summer and keep continuing to be better and be the best we can,” Hilborn said.
They also have clear goals in mind as to who they want to become on the court in the upcoming season.
“I'm pretty close to 1,000 points. So I would like to get that in my career. And then I think both of us becoming leaders in this senior year, even though we were seniors, we weren't the seniors on the team because we had some fifth years, a sixth year. I think both of us kind of want to come into that leadership role. Kamden's our point guard so she already is a pretty big leader. But for me, personally, I want to lead these younger girls. And we still have a lot of older girls and a lot of experience, but I just want to be able to be a leader and fill that role as well,” Swannack said.
Head coach Rachelle Sayers has had a perfect retention rate when it comes to seniors with a fifth year option due to COVID-19, with all four seniors returning this past season. The pair admits that she has created a culture that they can’t get enough of.
“It says a lot. Obviously, nobody gets sick of her too fast. But no, she definitely cares for us and is helping us reach our goals, like not only basketball goals, but our futures. You look at the four seniors that are graduating this year, and just where they're going in life, and it's just definitely, I think, motivational when you're coming into a program like this. And you see how she works in people's lives and special ways, not just basketball. And it's definitely a culture you want to be a part of. So I think, yeah, you want to stick around as long as possible."