By Amanda Perkins
Following an off-season rife with potential and new players learning to gel as a team, the Cabool Lady Bulldogs are looking forward to a new year with new opportunities.
“We had a good summer,” said coach Rance Beller. “We got up a lot of shots, and participated in a team camp in Lake of the Ozarks. We were able to get some of the younger kids some valuable experience, and we were able to get a good look at how our team may look for the upcoming season.”
Expectations were high for the Bulldogs last season, but they struggled in the always-competitive SCA, amassing a 9-15 overall record and losing in district play to No. 2 seed Stoutland.
The Lady Bulldogs graduated five, losing much of their starting cast. All-SCA Kara Matherly, who missed her junior season due to an ACL injury, was the most versatile player for Cabool, and the void will be felt once again by her absence. Kelsey Drone was the team specialist behind the arc and also was chosen for the All-SCA team. Sarah Luallen was a key rebounder and defender for the team, as was Alexis Samuel, the defensive leader. Jaylene Atkins contributed in various positions as the sixth man.
Summer competitions helped solidify the roster for the new season. “I have five players that I know for sure will be playing varsity,” said Beller of his new lineup. “I have several players that will be trying to earn some minutes.”
Senior Alyssa Matherly was the main ball handler last year and will return as an experienced point guard. “Alyssa really took some big steps as a junior in learning how to play the position,” said Beller. He expects her to up her intensity and to score more often, and to be a force on the defensive side. She averaged 11 points per game and almost 5 rebounds last season.
Kaitlen Beller, junior, averaged just over 4 rebounds per game last year, and will be asked to be the main post presence this year. “She has improved each season and is ready to be a consistent contributor on the varsity level,” said Beller.
Kaila Shannon returns as a senior guard who runs the floor well and is tough on defense. She steps into the role of a starter and also is an improved shooter, with expectations of helping to up scoring for her team.
Two newcomers, Joelle Atkins and Katlynn Ellison, will round out the starters. Atkins, a 5’9” junior, could play in a variety of positions. As a freshman, Ellison is unproven but skilled, and is expected to play as a guard.
The Lady Bulldogs begin the season with games against Niangua and Couch.
“I am excited about this group and think we will surprise some people after graduating five seniors last season,” said Beller.