Ravyn Miles part of a bonded six who came back to RCTC chasing a national title

Mar. 11—ROCHESTER — When Ravyn Miles first arrived at Rochester Community and Technical College three falls ago and got a quick look at her future basketball teammates, there was some trepidation.

Point guard Miles comes from the "city," a graduate of Simley High School, just southeast of St. Paul.

The young women she'd be sharing the court with at RCTC were almost all from rural communities around Rochester.

The rural ones are all white. Miles is black.

"I remember the first couple of weeks here, I was calling my mom saying, 'I don't know if I will be able to make any friends here, they are so different than me,'" Miles said.

Little did Miles know that she'd soon be wearing a dazzling smile as she rode horses and gazed at pigs and cows at RCTC teammate Kassidy Broadwater's family farm in Preston, many of those trips capped by sleepovers. And little did she know that once that freshman season was done, she and a bunch of RCTC teammates would take a spring-break trip together to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Then there's what's happened this season. Little did Miles know that she would jump at the chance to play an unprecedented third year at RCTC with these teammates, the NCAA having granted an extra season of eligibility to all who played through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21.

Miles, Myia Ruzek (Lewiston-Altura graduate), Olivia Christianson (Lyle), Broadwater (Fillmore Central), Kandace Sikkink (Fillmore Central) and Lexi Hugeback (Kasson-Mantorville) all returned this fall for a third season together and on a passionate quest to finish as national champions.

"We want to win it so badly," said Miles, whose 24-1 team will get that chance when it begins play in a national tournament being hosted by RCTC, March 15-18.

The Yellowjckets finished third at nationals last year after having had high hopes of winning it.

"All six of us came back, and our entire team did, for this reason — to win a national championship," Miles said. "We didn't come back to get third place again. We didn't come back to get second place. We came back to win a banner, to hang a banner. Our drive is intense. I've never seen a group of girls who all have the same motivation as we do. We're all on the same page. We all want the same thing."

Finally, little did Miles know that she and four of her teammates would be sharing not only the basketball court together this year, but a house in northeast Rochester and savoring every minute of it. They'd turn 21 together, they'd shop together, they'd eat out together, they'd talk until all hours together.

They'd do everything together, non-stop.

Little did Miles know how wrong she'd be when she was placing those first desperate calls to her mom in 2020. But it didn't take her long to figure it out.

"As we started to practice together, I began to realize there really isn't that much difference between us," Miles said. "We were raised in different places. They are farm girls, I am a city girl. But our differences almost make us better friends. They've taught me so much and I've taught them so much. It's been a good mesh. It's crazy to think about, but it almost feels like I've known these girls forever. We've gone through life and basketball together."

That unbreakable bond has helped lead the Yellowjackets' to massive success in Miles' three seasons at RCTC, the team a cumulative 64-8 in that stretch.

They've also worked well enough together that those six third-year players — Miles, Ruzek, Christianson, Broadwater, Sikkink and Hugeback — all wanted what Miles wanted shortly after last season ended. That is, to be together for one more year, their mutual goal a national championship.

Once the idea was floated early this past summer that they come back as a group for a third season, there wasn't a single contrary voice.

Ruzek, who leads the team in scoring at 23 points per game (on stellar 54% field-goal shooting) and is finally healthy after spending much of her two first seasons hurt, says it's been a fantastic final five months for a team whose only loss came in the Region XIII championship game, an upset at the hands of Riverland Community College.

"I am just so thankful to be able to play the sport I love with the girls that I've known for three years now," Ruzek said. "That has been unreal. We are all great friends and will stay friends and in touch long after basketball is done."

It's been a special time, something that is not lost on RCTC coach Jason Bonde, who like this pack of six is in his third year in the Yellowjackets women's program.

Bonde counts his blessings every day to have been a part of their lives. His only regret is that it will soon be over.

"These girls are so committed to each other," Bonde said. "It's crazy how close their friendships have become. Basketball has brought us together. But it is not what's going to keep us together. There's a bond there that we're going to have forever. I'm going to miss this group a lot."

—Olivia Christianson (Lyle), 5-8 forward: 14.9 ppg., 5.5 rpg., 3.7. apg.

—Ravyn Miles (St. Paul), 5-6 guard: 13.4 ppg., 7.5 apg., 2.3 rpb.

—Myia Ruzek (Altura), 5-9 guard: 23 ppg., 4 rpg., 3.3 apg.

—Kassidy Broadwater (Preston), 5-5 guard: 2.5 ppg., 2.9 rpg., 2.8 apg.

—Kandace Sikkink (Preston), 5-7 forward: 10.2 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 1.7 apg.

—Lexi Hugeback (Kasson), 5-10 forward: 5.9 ppg., 5.4 rpg., .5 apg.