By John Miller
After finishing last year with a 10-16 mark, including a 1-5 record in the Central Ozark Conference-Small Division, the Hollister Lady Tigers believe this year can help turn their program around.
With four starters and seven lettermen returning, its easy to see why they might be right.
“We had another great summer going to camps,” said fourth-year coach Willy Morgan. “We played in the upper division at Missouri Southern’s (team camp) and played really well. Our girls finally got to taste some success last season, and hopefully they will come back hungry for more.”
Two seniors have graduated from last year and replacing them won’t be easy. Halie Allred, last year’s leading scorer at over 20 points per game, has graduated and is now playing collegiately at Culver-Stockton (NAIA). Also gone is Darby Doughtery, a strong defensive player for the Lady Tigers.
“We won’t be able to replace what Halie did for our team with just one person,” Morgan said. “Our team will have to work together to pick up the slack. We’ll also miss Darby’s defensive aggressiveness, and her leadership in practices. She always pushed for players instead to work harder.”
Instead, Hollister will lean on the play of its returners. Senior Skyler Bruck should help fill the gap left by Dougherty, thanks to her excellent defensive skills. Bruck averaged 4.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last year.
Juniors Alexa Bekemeier and Raven Ross will help shoulder the scoring load after averaging 10.8 points and 9.1 points per game last season, respectively. Ross nearly averaged a double-double last year, collecting 11.1 rebounds per game.
“Raven has really become a great all-around player,” Morgan said. “I’m looking for a monster year from her. Alexa is also very tough in the post, and she can knock down the 3-point shot. I’m looking for her to play several positions this season.”
Other key returners for the Lady Tigers are junior K.K. Thomas, who started half of the year last season, as well as seniors Armonie Stephenson and Brooklynn Cronin. Cronin has completely healed from ACL surgery and had a good summer running Hollister’s offense at the point-guard position.
In addition to all its returners, Hollister brings in three newcomers that could pay dividends this season: sophomores Mallory Donovant and Mackie Green and junior Lacey Schwyhart. Donovant had shoulder surgery last year, ending her season, but is healthy and ready to make an impact this year.
The Lady Tigers could also get help from sophomore guard Maddy Frenzel, who moved in from Forsyth over the summer.
“We want to compete every night,” Morgan said. “We want to be a factor in conference play and show our entire schedule how much we have improved.”