By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Last season was one full of learning experiences for Nixa.
For the third straight year, the Lady Eagles had their season ended by rival Republic in the district championship game.
Eight losses by single digits and the return of several key players that had a chance to learn those valuable lessons has Nixa head coach Jennifer Perryman optimistic entering her fifth season as head coach.
“We were battle tested every time we stepped on the floor last year,” said Perryman. “I think being in those situations will help us significantly this season. We learned tough, valuable lessons in those tight games and I look for that to be a positive this season.”
Leading Nixa’s three returning starters is sophomore Emily Edwards.
The 5-foot-6 combo guard is Nixa’s returning leader in scoring (11.4) and assists (2.1), gaining a year of valuable starting experience as a freshman.
“I am expecting more leadership from Emily as she gains more and more experience,” said Perryman. “We will look to her to contribute in many different ways. She is a tough kid who can take a lot of responsibility and really responds to being challenged.”
Junior wing Kelsey Biro has battled injuries in each of the last two seasons, but her ability to score (8.2 PPG in 2016-17) will be a welcomed addition.
“At 6-feet tall with a guard skillset, I think she’s one of the most talented players around,” said Perryman. “She will help us tremendously this season; we have high expectations for her.”
Senior 6-foot posts Halley Wiggins (6.7 points, 7.4 rebounds) and Bissett Michaelson (5.3 points, 3.5 rebounds) add size and athleticism to Nixa’s lineup, especially on the defensive end.
Junior Kayla Horgan and sophomore Kenzie Hines will look to provide frontcourt depth.
Junior guard Lakin Copeland will take on an even bigger role this season. Classmates Allie Brumley and Drue Lawrence will provide depth, along with sophomores Gabby Nielson and Paige Sportsman.
“Our team is like a puzzle and every player has the ability to contribute,” said Perryman. “We need everyone play to their strengths. Together we can create a finished project. But we have to have every piece of that puzzle in order to be successful.”
The Lady Eagles will again have a loaded non-conference schedule with Class 2 state champion Skyline making a trip to Nixa, as well as trips to West Plains and Kansas power Olathe East.
The COC might be the deepest it’s been in years with several teams returning a multitude of talent.
While Perryman is hopeful her team can compete for conference and district championships, coaching basketball at Nixa continues to be about something bigger than wins and losses.
“I want our kids to be challenged and grow from every experience,” said Perryman. “In the end, numbers don’t matter but how we are tested and react to those tests are what’s going to change us as people and guide us in the future and in life.
“This has always been about more than just basketball and it’s my job to prepare them for life in any way I can.”
Nixa will open the 2017-18 season on Nov. 21 at home against Parkview.