HELENA -- This year’s version of the Carroll College Saints women’s basketball team will certainly be different than the Saints of yesteryear.
Such is the case when an honorable mention All-American takes a medical redshirt.
The Saints’ commanding post Cassidy Hashley won’t be suiting up for the Saints this season, but she’ll still be a central figure in practices and on the sidelines. Carroll began learning how to play without Hashley this summer, Saints coach Rachelle Sayers said. And while the team figures to once again be a defensive stalwart, Sayers sees this version of the Saints as being more up-tempo.
“I think this is a team that wants to get out and run,” Sayers said. “We have the point guards that can do it. We have always been a good defensive team, but haven’t created as many turnovers as we need to. We grinded out possessions. Without Cassie it obviously changes the way we play. We’re probably not going to be a pound-it-in-the-paint offense. That’s okay.”
The Saints will still have firepower in the post, as Carroll returns honorable mention all-conference forward Hannah Dean, and Michaela Dowdy. Carroll returns nine experienced players from last season’s team.
While the Saints work out a somewhat new identity, they’ll be plunging into a Frontier Conference that features other makeovers, too. A changing of guards for Lewis-Clark State, MSU-Northern, Montana Tech and Montana Western means the point guard position could become a strength of Carroll’s, as the Saints bring back honorable mention all-conference point Bailey Pasta and are eager to work true freshman Jaidyn Lyman into the rotation.
The Saints will mix in their youth this season in hopes of improving on last season's 22-9 record and fourth place Frontier finish. Carroll has been picked to finish fourth in the Frontier preseason poll, though the Saints were just a vote shy of second place.
Carroll will test its team early on, with a slew of games against NCAA Division I opponents. The Saints start it all off with an exhibition against the University of Montana on Oct. 30, and follow that up with a challenge in Salt Lake City against the University of Utah.
“I think there’s a lot of value to the schedule we put together,” Sayers said. “The importance of playing up in competition and learning from D-I games and where your weaknesses are and where teams are going to exploit you.”
Here’s a look at the Saints 2017-18 roster:
Bailey Pasta: Sr., point guard, 5-foot-6
2016-17 stats: 31 g (29 starts), 10.4 ppg, 34% FG, 25% 3pt, 84% FT, 2.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.2 spg
Overview: Pasta ran the point for the Saints last season, logging the most minutes of anybody on the roster. In a league that was loaded at the position, Pasta earned honorable mention all-conference honors, and showed the ability to score late in games when the Saints needed it. “She’s come in this fall with added strength and is in better shape than she’s been in,” Sayers said. “She’s definitely ready to lead our team. She had a very solid junior season.”
Jaidyn Lyman: Fr., point guard, 5-3
2016-17 stats: N/A
Overview: The Saints were excited when Lyman signed on to play basketball with them. Early on, the reports from practice are Lyman is ready to play, and play fast. The freshman guard won’t redshirt this season, and figures to be a part of the Saints’ new up-tempo attack. “Lyman is a jet,” Sayers said. “She’s the fastest kid that we’ve had here at Carroll since I’ve been here. I’d be shocked if she’s not one of the fastest guards in the league as a freshman. She has a different speed than we’ve had. She changes the game. I think fans will love watching her.”
Christine Denny: Fr., point guard, 5-9
2016-17 stats: N/A
Overview: Denny is another true freshman that will see time for the Saints this season. Denny, in her short time at Carroll College, has proven to be unflappable, and often plays bigger than her 5-foot-9 frame. “Denny has amazing strength for a freshman,” Sayers said. “She has a high basketball IQ. She’s really competitive. She does not look or play or think like a freshman. She’s a gamer. I’m excited to have her on the floor. She can play a lot of positions for us. She can post. She’s not afraid to get in there and mix things up. She gives us a different look at the guard position.”
Brittney Johnson: Jr., shooting guard, 5-7
2016-17 stats: 31 games (30 starts), 5.9 ppg, 37% FG, 36% 3pt, 80% FT, 1.7 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.3 spg
Overview: Johnson was tied for the most starts of any Saint last season. The junior defender and shooter will be in the mix once again. When Johnson hit her shots last season, she gave the Saints a hard-to-guard offense, but when her shooting stroke was off, the Saints struggled to get production from the 3-point line. “Brit obviously has the experience,” Sayers said. “She did a great job of really taking to heart some of the things we talked about this spring. She really got after it.”
Sara Chalich: Jr., shooting guard, 5-6
2016-17 stats: 31 games, 4.7 ppg, 39% FG, 39% 3pt, 63% FT, 1.2 rpg, 1 apg
Overview: Chalich mostly spelled Johnson last season, typically emphasizing her defense first and looking for offense second. Chalich, like Johnson, gave the Saints a big boost when her shot was falling. The Saints will be looking for her to take another step forward from deep this season. “Sara is probably the best three-point shooter in the group,” Sayer said. “She can really get it going from three.”
Mikaela Robinson: Jr., shooting guard, 5-9
2016-17 stats: 29 games, 1.2 ppg, 34% FG, 44% 3pt, 50% FT (2-4), 0.5 rpg
Overview: The standout pole vaulter will once again be competing for minutes at the shooting guard position, and perhaps mixing in as a backup point guard. Robinson gives the Saints some flexibility when she’s on the floor. “Mika is a combination of all of (the shooting guards),” Sayers said. “She’s had minutes at the point so she can handle the ball. She makes nice passes and hits open shots.”
Mikaela Olson: Jr., shooting guard, 5-8
2016-17 stats: 29 games, 1.6 ppg, 42% FG, 40% 3pt, 40% FT (2-5), 0.5 rpg
Overview: Olson saw about six minutes per game last season. The guard from Lewistown figures to mix in a bit at the shooting guard position this season. “Olson athletically has a little bit of an edge on (Robinson, Chalich and Johnson),” Sayers said. “She has a great middle game and she can pull up. She can shoot up and over people.”
Danielle Wagner: Fr., guard/forward, 5-9
2016-17 stats: N/A
Overview: Wagner redshirted in 2016-17, but comes from a rich athletic tradition in the Wagner family. Sayers sees Wagner mixing in both at guard and small forward this season. “Dani is a lefty so that adds a different dimension,” Sayers said. “She’s always really fast defensively and off the dribble. She’s a tough physical player. When she makes up her mind to be a rebounder, there are few people that can keep her off the board.”
Oona Harrington: Soph., guard/forward, 5-11
2016-17 stats: 30 games (two starts), 2.3 ppg, 40% FG, 25% 3pt, 63% FT, 2.5 rpg
Overview: Harrington saw a lot of backup duty last season, logging 379 minutes off the bench to spell Saints’ forwards. “Oona has developed her game,” Sayers said. “She’s healthy this year. Her perimeter game has really improved. She has a huge basketball IQ. She makes the right play at the right time. She is going to be a key player for us. We will play her in the guard spot and at the small forward because of her passing and size.”
Hannah Dean: Jr., forward/center, 6-1
2016-17: 31 games (30 starts), 10.2 ppg, 41% FG, 13% 3pt, 67% FT, 7.2 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.6 bpg
Overview: Dean is the Saints’ best all-around player coming back this season. Dean did a little bit of everything for the Saints last year, drawing praise as the Saints’ best one-on-one player. Dean is a solid low-post threat, but can also step out and knock down shots. On defense, Dean lead the Saints with 51 blocks last year. With a clean bill of health, Dean should give the Saints another big year. She was picked to the preseason all-conference team. “When Hannah is in the right mindset she is almost unguardable,” Sayers said. “When she gets in that state of mind she is just confident and aggressive and she’s taking her time. She’s added some strength. She’s in great shape. She’s improved her perimeter game. She’s been a great rebounder and shot blocker. I think she’s really developed.”
Taylor Salonen: Soph., forward, 6-1
2016-17 stats: 21 games, 1.1 ppg, 39% FG, 40% 3pt, 100% FT (4-4), 1.5 rpg
Overview: In limited time last season, Salonen did good things for the Saints. She should have more opportunities to play this season. “I feel like she’s made some huge strides this year,” Sayers said. “She’s hitting the three consistently ... She can run the floor and block some shots.”
Michaela Dowdy: Sr., center, 6-1
2016-17 stats: 31 games, 4.9 ppg, 64% FG, 44% FT, 1.7 rpg
Overview: Dowdy will get a huge boost in playing time with Hashley sidelined this season. Sayers said Dowdy would start on nearly every other Frontier team, but playing behind an All-American meant time would be sparse. Dowdy has a strong low-post game, and is an efficient finisher. While many figure the Saints will be hurting without Hashley, the Saints are feeling good about what they have in Dowdy. “I think Dowdy has been one of the best post players in the league,” Sayers said. “She really has an opportunity to show what she can do. I think I’m really impressed with her progress this summer. She’s taking jump shots with confidence. She’s taking it off the dribble. She’s in great shape. I look for Dowdy to have a really good senior year.”
Nikki Krueger: Fr., center, 6-1
2016-17 stats: N/A
Overview: Krueger came to Carroll as a strong high-post player, and has been polishing her low-post moves under the tutelage of assistant coach J.D. Solomon. It’s unclear if Krueger will redshirt this season. “Kruger is, again, a big strong athletic body,” Sayers said. “She’s another one that is extremely active on the offensive glass and defense when she wants to rebound. She has great hands. She’s learning every day.”
Molly McDermott: Fr., guard/forward, 6-2
2016-17 stats: N/A
Overview: McDermott came to Carroll from Gonzaga prep and has played with a toughness that belies her thin frame. McDermott is being worked in as a post with guard skills. It remains to be seen if she will redshirt this season. “She’s a long body,” Sayers said. “She played high school ball with Oona. She makes the great decision almost all the time, takes the right shot. Finds the open player. She’s thin, but she plays a lot more physical than that.”