HELENA — The Carroll College volleyball team finished last season with 19 wins.

But when coach Moe Boyle went back and reviewed all the matches, it certainly didn’t feel like it.

“I don’t think we had an amazing year last season, but any time you have (a near) 20-win season, you think it should be a good year,” Boyle said.

Carroll had quality wins against teams such as UC Merced, Benedictine University in Mesa and Embry-Riddle University early in the season, but a first round sweep to Lewis-Clark State in the first round of the Frontier Conference tournament sent the Saints home earlier than they wanted.

“I always believe that we are a team that can come together by the end (of the season),” Boyle said. “My focus is on peaking at the end of the season and not necessarily having to be our best right out of the gate. It takes a long time to create a quality team, but I know this is a team that can become that.”

Now, with a handful of new players, including senior Hannah Dean, who decided to return to volleyball while getting her master’s degree, Boyle hopes she has players that can spark the energy for another run.

It’s been three years since the Saints hoisted a Frontier Conference tournament trophy.

“I think every year is pretty exciting with a new group that comes in and the chemistry that grows from the returners, but it changes each year,” Boyle said.

Boyle quickly had to figure out where the Saints’ offense was going to come from.

Carroll graduated just three players last fall, two of those players were its top scorer and starting setter.

Brielle Bumgarner finished with 366 kills and Reyna Pilgeram finished with more than 900 assists.

But Boyle is confident the offense will come around.

Helena High School alumna Jenna Starke returns for her redshirt senior season and will be looked to to provide some leadership.

“She just works really hard and does everything you ask her to do,” Boyle said.

Sophomores outside hitter Lexi Mikkelsen and setter Aiyah Williams also return with college experience.

Boyle also said there is a mix of seven freshmen that could get some playing time right away.

Sophia Spoja left Puyallup High School in Washington setting a school record with 507 kills, while Katie Rhodes left Mt. Spokane High School setting the school record with the most career blocks.

Boyle said Dean will be an impact despite not playing competitive volleyball since her senior year at Gardiner High School.

Carroll was picked by the Frontier Conference coaches to finish fourth in the conference behind the University of Providence, Rocky Mountain and Montana Tech, but Boyle knows she has to aim higher. She knows what this team is capable of.

“We need to use the energy that I know this team has,” Boyle said. “There is a lot of intensity and we have a lot of girls who hate to lose. I think when put that together, we are going to get so much more.”

Carroll plays an exhibition against Montana State in Bozeman on Tuesday and has its first home game at the PE Center on Wednesday against Evergreen State College.

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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

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