By Nolan Epstein
After posting a 14-14 record last season and a 1-5 record in the Mid Lakes Conference, the Marionville Lady Comets are shifting to a new chapter and welcoming in a new coach in the process.
Jamie LaSalle, who headed the Lady Comets basketball program a year ago, gives way to first-year head coach Melanie Mayberry.
Mayberry enters with an overall coaching record of 23-46 over a span of three seasons, but there’s a strong chance that a current tenure with the Lady Comets could turn fortunes around – partly due to the personnel she will have to coach this season.
Marionville will have to continue on without four lettermen and two starters from last year’s team, including Julie Neveln and Abbie Hopkins, with the latter earning all-conference honors in 2015-16.
However, there is still plenty to be excited about for a team that limited opponents to just over 46 PPG a season ago and is aiming to make a drastic move up the conference standings.
“The (Mid-Lakes Conference) is a tough conference and we hope to be competitive in every game,” said Mayberry. “We would like to keep in the upper-half when finishing.”
Having the benefit of being able to send out seniors Kymbra Kirby and Bayleigh Finn is certainly a step in the right direction in trying to accomplish that goal.
Finn averaged 10 points per game last season, while Kirby put up 12 points and 8 rebounds per game. Kirby, standing tall at 5-foot-11, will look to expand on last season’s commendable numbers and become an even more prolific force in the low blocks.
“[Kirby] is a great rebounder and will be expected to put up more points this season,” Mayberry said.
The sophomore duo of Gracie Fiddyment and Lauren Robinson, who both played in 18 games last year, will also see valuable minutes on the floor and help to provide points when Finn and Kirby don’t have open looks. Fiddyment can also force turnovers by instilling heavy pressure on defense, while Robinson is another prominent inside presence as she stands at 5-foot-10.
In addition, the Lady Comets sport eight newcomers on this season’s roster. Two seniors, one sophomore and five freshmen make up the core of first-year players for Mayberry looking to make an impact amid a rapid style of play.
“We are going to have to adapt to a new system of tough, pressure defense and a fast paced offense,” Mayberry said. “Our newcomers will have to step up early and fill some important spots in ball-handling and defense.”
Marionville’s schedule is rather unforgiving again as three of its first four games are on the road. The Blue Eye Tournament, Walnut Grove Tournament and Lady Comet Classic, as well as dates with basketball powers Strafford and Skyline, will give Marionville a good indication of where it stands as a team.
Regardless, the classic combo of hard work and dedication will go a long way in ultimately determining the level of success this year for the Lady Comets.
“Our keys for winning will be keeping a great attitude, working 110 percent and busting our tails from start to finish,” Mayberry added. “This is the type of athletes that the Marionville Lady Comets have.”
Marionville faces Chadwick on the road on Nov. 21 to begin the season.