Carroll Women Get Ready for Thursday's NAIA Tournament Opener - News, Sports and Weather

Carroll Women Get Ready for Thursday's NAIA Tournament Opener

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The national stage is set and the Carroll College women's basketball team is ready to step into the spotlight at the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship in Independence, Mo. The 22nd-ranked Saints take on No. 9 Concordia (Calif.) in the first round of the tournament Thursday evening at 8:45 MDT in the final game of the first round.

"Obviously we are excited to be here, but what I want our kids to realize is that we don't want this to be our last stop," head coachRachelle Sayers said. "We are not just going to be excited to make it. This tournament is anybody's to win, and you can see that with what happened today with UGF and L-C State. Anyone can win when you get down here and we're excited about our matchup."

On day one of the tournament, the University of Great Falls, the No. 25 team out of the Frontier pulled a 73-54 upset over seventh-ranked Loyola (La.), and unranked Lewis-Clark State came .3 seconds from forcing overtime against No. 2 Oklahoma City. The Saints bring an 18-11 record into the tournament and a 5-5 mark against teams in the NAIA Tournament field.

"That is exactly why we played the schedule we played," Sayers said. "I wanted them to understand the level of competition that we needed to be at, and we need them to understand that they were good enough to be here and compete. Our schedule was great because we won some of those tough games and it helped us get the feel for what this would be like."

Carroll is led by three players that average double-digit points per game. Senior guard Bailey Snelling leads the Saints with 12.9 ppg. Freshman post Cassidy Hashley scores 12.4 ppg and senior guardKalee Junkermier adds 12.0 ppg. The Saints' first-round opponent, Concordia, is led by Janis Peterson with 21.2 ppg. Head coach Trisha Stafford-Odom is in her third season at the helm of the Eagles.

"They're big, they're physical, they've got nine seniors and a bunch of Division I transfers. They're a team that won five conference games last year and went 14-2 this year so you can see the improvement," Sayers said. "They have some really good individual players, but we have to play better than them as a team. We need to be the more aggressive team, we have to the more disciplined team and we need to stay within what we do as a team and not get caught up in what they are doing."

Carroll will look repeat its 2013 performance when the Saints advanced to the round of 16 with a win over the Masters (Calif.) To do that Sayers knows the Saints need to focus on what they need to control.

"We've always taken a lot of pride in what our team can do as a group, and that is what we are really going to concentrate on," Sayers said.

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