By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After inheriting a program that was winless in 2014-15, Monett head coach Alyssa Kennedy watched her team’s win total improve with each season.
The Lady Cubs took a big leap forward last season, its best since 2010, finishing 14-9 after falling to Aurora in the district tournament.
Kennedy believes Monett will continue building on last year’s successful season.
“I think we should have another strong season,” Kennedy said. “My hope is that we surpass last year’s win total and get close to 18-20 wins.”
Monett says goodbye to a trio of graduated seniors in Jordann Pugh, Kaylee George and Victoria Gutierrez. Pugh, a starter, was one of the team’s strongest defenders, according to Kennedy.
Losing only one starter, Monett has plenty of returning firepower led by Kaesha George.
A 5-foot-7 junior, George broke the school’s all-time 3-point record in a single season last year and is a multi-sport state champion in both softball and track & field.
“Kaesha is one of the best athletes, if not the best, in the area,” Kennedy said. “She is a well-rounded basketball player who can score off the bounce, shoot the 3, and has a good mid-range game as well.”
While George is Monett’s leading returning scorer, the Lady Cubs have a roster full of players that can put the ball in the hoop.
Seniors Alyssa Williams (11.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.1 apg), Katie Schmidt (11.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.1 spg) and Abby Kranz (3.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg) provide plenty of additional scoring options for Monett.
A four-year starter, the 5-foot-7 Williams has signed to play at NAIA Park University next year.
“(Williams) has developed a great deal over the last four years and has gone from a point guard who distributes to a double figure scorer,” Kennedy said.
They are joined by juniors Kelsey Dalton (6.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Abby Patton (3.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Ashley Kurima (1.2 ppg, 1.7 spg).
Newcomers to the varsity roster include a trio of sophomores in Natalie Turner, Taylor Southard and Kim Parris.
Kennedy believes that, while her team is more than capable of taking another big step forward, it will also have to navigate some new obstacles.
“The biggest challenge for this group will be the fact that people now are going to take us seriously,” Kennedy said. “The first year I was here saw only two wins and most people didn’t prepare for us, scout us or have any game plan because we were so far behind skill-wise. Now, we have a solid team with many girls who can score. I think that is going to be a challenge for our girls to get used to having other teams have a game plan for us, scouting our best players, and having people really work to keep us from scoring and doing what we do.”
Another big challenge for Monett and Kennedy will be limiting the team foul count this season, which plagued the Lady Cubs at times last season.
“We have to become a better defensive team and not foul as much,” Kennedy said. “We are much more successful when we can sub freely and really push tempo without worrying about fouling people out or getting others in foul trouble. With our ability to score, we have to be able to defend and keep others from scoring in bunches as well. “