By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Entering his second season at Thayer, Cecil Meyer is excited about what could be.
His Lady Bobcats – fresh off of a 26-2 campaign – return four regular starters from that team, a spot starter, several letterwinners and a 1-loss JV team. With a full year to get his players acclimated to his system, Year Two should be even smoother for Thayer.
“It is always easier the second season, everything is in now we can start tweaking some things, but as far as expectations, the standard was set high from day one,” said Meyer. ““Last year was a great to start to what we hope to be many years of success.”
Thayer is looking to build off of a season that saw them advance to the district championship before losing to Neelyville. It was the Lady Bobcats first loss in-state, one that makes Meyer feel like they left a good opportunity on the table.
“The loss in the district finals was so much like other games such as Hartville, Gainesville and Alton where we trailed most of the game and by double digits,” said Meyer. “We hit the big shot under a minute to get the lead, and in everyone one of those games we followed it up with a quick steal and bucket and we would hold on, this time we gambled for the steal and picked up a critical foul sending Julie Stone to the bench.
“I do believe with our style if we could have got out of district we had a good chance of making a run.”
That style features extremely discipline defense, a pivotal factor in Thayer holding 13 opponents to 40 points or less and leading that attack is junior guard Julie Stone.
The 5-foot-9 combo guard led Thayer in scoring (18 PPG), assists (4.7 APG) and steals (3 SPG), earning her SCA Player of the Year honors. She is again expected to produce at a high level for the Lady Cats.
“We are expecting great things from Julie this year after a great sophomore season,” said Meyer. “She has added some strength this offseason and has been working expanding her range; Julie is one of those players that can do it all.”
Thayer will have plenty of balance and no shortage of weapons.
Senior point guard Caity Jones averaged 12 points, 3.3 assists and 2.2 steals last year.
Meyer believes she can build off of a great junior year, which earned her All-SCA honors, and become an extension of him on the floor.
Junior Angela Sorrell is the team’s returning leading rebounder (4.7 RPG). The 5-foot-8 forward also averaged seven points last year, but scored 24 in the district final; a glimpse of what she can do offensively.
Meyer is hopeful she can build off that game.
Senior Taylor Madden is described as the heart and soul of what Thayer does defensively. After a pair of knee surgeries in the past two years, Meyer believes she is regaining her old form. Classmates Meghan King, Mikayla Allen and April Earls also return. King is known as a shooter, Earls averaged nearly 20 PPG on JV last year and Allen is looking to bounce back from a foot injury last year.
Rounding out the roster are seniors August Earls and Megean Frazier, sophomores Chloe Huskey and Jurnee Rolen and freshmen Maddy Kerley and 6-foot-1 forward Shelby Coursey.
There will be no shortage of expectations for Thayer.
They’ll be the favorite to repeat as SCA champions and will get the best shot of every team on their schedule because of what they did last season, with the ultimate goal of a Final Four run and a state championship being a very real possibility.
While Meyer isn’t afraid of the standard set last year, he prefers a more simplistic approach; just get through district play first.
“Our talk this year is win a district championship; people don’t understand how tough that is,” said Meyer. “When you get to that district final there are only 32 teams left in the state so you know it’s going to be a good team. You are facing that has the same goal as you have.”