By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Bolivar finished 17-9 last season, falling in the district semifinal to West Plains.
The Lady Liberators enter the 2018-19 season in a rebuild after losing five seniors, 57% of the team’s scoring and rebounding.
Bolivar will also welcome a new coach, only its third in the past 44 years, as veteran coach Ryan Madison takes over the helm.
Madison spent the previous eight seasons in St. Joseph coaching Class 4 Lafayette.
“This is my 17th year of coaching and my first at Bolivar,” Madison said. “We are replacing five and a huge majority of our scoring; however, over the summer, I saw enough to know that we can still be a good team.”
Michelle Gabani, Taylor Dial, Reaghan Lesh, Megan Campbell and Logan Fullerton all depart due to graduation.
Gabani, an all-state selection, averaged 16.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.1 steals per game. The 5-foot-10 guard now plays for College of the Ozarks.
The Bolivar roster will feature a new look this season, led by a trio of varsity returnees.
5-foot-7 senior Rheagan Hancock (5.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.6 spg), 5-foot-9 senior Hannah Newcomb (4.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg) and 5-foot-6 sophomore Lexi Berry (11.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.8 apg) will key the Lady Libs’ attack.
Madison’s core strategy will focus on on the defensive end.
“We have a nice core group returning, despite the loss of five seniors from last season,” Madison said. “We have nice athleticism, and I strongly believe that the better we get defensively, the better we are going to be. It also helps to have a point guard returning who has a full year of experience and had some success as a freshman.”
Bolivar also welcomes a trio of varsity newcomers. With a host of available spots on the roster, all three will compete for playing time, including 5-10 sophomore Trinity Williamson, 5-foot-6 junior Sarah Green and 5-foot-8 senior Cassidy Hebert.
With so much roster turnover, the Lady Liberators will be challenged early as roles develop and the team learns to play together.
“We will be somewhat inexperienced, especially off the bench,” Madison said. “We will also need to find a way to score in the post some. If we learn to guard, and make that a priority, I think we will be a very tough out at the end of the year.”
Following a Nov. 15 jamboree with Ozark, Walnut Grove and Fair Grove, the Lady Liberators open the season Nov. 29 in Branson’s Battle at the Border.