PARSONS, Kan. — Being the number one ranked team in the country can be a lot of pressure. But the Labette Community College women’s basketball team is up for the challenge.
“It definitely feels good to be ranked number one, ranked number one in the country,” said sophomore point guard Ariah Powell. “Probably the best feeling honestly.”
The Cardinals were ranked #1 in the NJCAA Division II to start the season and have managed to remain there going into the third week of the season.
“We work hard every day on the court,” said sophomore guard Jayla Smith. “Coach Rolls be tough on us all the time so we do what we have to do.”
Last year, the team finished second in the national rankings, but didn’t get the chance to compete for a national championship, as the NJCAA tournament was called off due to COVID-19.
“We did do a really good job last year,” said head coach Mitch Rolls. “That group finished second in the country. You know, so there was a little deservedness there. You know, on the other side, you know, we weren’t the number one team in the country last year. So it was a little bit of a surprise. We’ve never been voted that high in the preseason rankings before.”
Rolls said this year’s ranking is the result of all the hard work and dedication the players have put in on and off the court.
“The girls put in work 6 days a week,” said Rolls. “You know, only Sundays we get off. You know, they’re in the weight room, doing a good job in the classroom. We’ve had no eligibility issues as far as players being ineligible. So, you know, it’s really a testament to how hard they work and the dedication they put in.”
Being the top dog means getting teams’ best shot night in and night out. But, Powell believes that will only make them better.
“It’s fun when people try to come at us,” said Powell. “You know, we definitely got a talented group. We work hard every day in practice, so we know we got it when people try to come hard at us.”
The goal this year is to contend for a national title and Rolls believes he has a team capable of achieving that.
“I feel like kid for kid, you know, we try to have the best roster available in the state and most years we can compete with that,” Rolls said.