Rachelle Sayers

Carroll College women's basketball coach Rachelle Sayers believes the Frontier Conference is the toughest in the NAIA.


HELENA — Carroll College women’s basketball coach Rachelle Sayers challenges other conferences to step up and play the sixth and seventh-place teams in the Frontier Conference.

“I think they would be surprised,” Sayers said Wednesday after practice.

Her belief is that the Frontier Conference is the nation’s best in the NAIA because of great coaching. Five teams are nationally ranked in the top 25 and it seems like the term upset is slowly getting redefined.

Since February began, first-place Montana Western lost on its home court, while second-place Carroll lost on the road to fifth-place Providence. Montana State-Northern, which sits in sixth place , is also slowly climbing out of the cellar by doubling its conference win total over the last two weeks.

“You see teams like (Montana) Tech and Northern knock off these top teams because they are that good,” Sayers said.

The Saints (18-7, 10-4) return to the PE Center Thursday night to host Northern and she knows it is not a game her team can take lightly, despite recent success.

During the first two games, the Saints received career scoring performances by two different seniors.

Back on Dec. 1 in Helena, Brittney Johnson nailed seven 3-pointers and finished with 23 points en route to a 78-57 win.

Roughly two months later up in Havre, Hannah Dean scored 29 points, while grabbing nine rebounds.

But that doesn’t mean a third game against the Skylights (12-14, 4-10) will necessarily be a walk in the park.

Carroll sophomore point guard Jaidyn Lyman got her first taste of playing Frontier teams three times last season and said it’s tough.

“You know exactly what everyone is going to do and the same goes for them about us so you have to find new ways to get past that and find new ways to score and new ways to stop their offense,” Lyman said.

Northern also has the history of stealing a game from Carroll. Last season, the Skylights won the first of three games and two years ago, swept the season series.

But right now, the focus is solely on themselves.

Carroll has rebounded after a loss to Providence on Feb. 1 and has won three straight games for the first time since late December.

“We just really came together as a team and got a lot closer,” said Lyman, who scored 14 points Saturday against Lewis-Clark State. “I think that really helped our chemistry and made us trust each other.”

Lyman hasn’t only been the only scorer stepping up. Sophomores Christine Denny and Danielle Wagner have also been making some noise of late.

Denny scored a team-high 16 points against Montana Western, while Wagner scored 18 points just this past Saturday against Lewis-Clark State.

“We want to play our best basketball in February and we are definitely doing that,” Denny said.

The Saints are 3-1 this month and during the past two seasons, while playing in February, hold a 11-1 overall record. 

Ryan Kuhn covers Carroll College athletics for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Email him at ryan.kuhn@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @rskuhn

Carroll College sports reporter

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