The Rolla girls were young last year with just two seniors in the rotation, but that did not stop the Lady Bulldogs from winning 13 games and marching all the way to the Class 4 District 11 title game. They fell to Osage 46-40 in that game to finish 13-14 overall.
This year expectations are high for coach Luke Floyd’s squad with most of last year’s production returning after learning a lot of valuable lessons at the varsity level.
“We learned the practice habits that it takes to be successful. We also learned how to compete and put ourselves into position to win games,” Floyd said. “The group we had needed experience. We started four sophomores and a junior, so they just needed experience playing at the varsity level.”
Ellie Rodgers was the leader of Rolla’s strong sophomore core last year. She averaged 11.8 points per game to go with 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals per contest. She was one of just two underclassmen to be named to the All-Ozark Conference first team.
“Ellie is a very talented player. She has very good instincts and can score which has contributed to her success,” Floyd said. “To become the elite player that we think she’s capable of being, Ellie needs to do a better job of taking care of the ball and become more consistent on the defensive end of the floor.”
Junior Rebecca Janke earned honorable mention all-conference honors after scoring 9.7 points per game and pulling down a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game. She will be looked to for leadership this season.
“Rebecca’s leadership has really improved. She was a very vocal leader over the off-season and has become another coach on the floor,” Floyd said. “Rebecca will continue to work on her offensive game and gain more confidence in it, which should allow her to become a special player.”
Junior Loran Pritchett and senior Kianna Garner also return to the starting lineup. Pritchett was solid across the board last year with 9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.3 assists per game. Garner was named to the Ozark Conference All-Defensive team.
Floyd has a strong freshman class that will come in competing for minutes on the varsity level right away including: Savannah Campbell, Taniya Corley, Emma Floyd, Carli Libhart, and Madison Mace.
This group will have a renewed focus on limiting turnovers after averaging 18.7 per game last year.
“We have to take better care of the basketball. We had far too many turnovers last year. We also have to do a better job of finishing games. We lost six games last year when we had the lead in the fourth quarter,” Floyd said.
Rolla will open the season on Nov. 17 at home against Columbia Hickman with renewed excitement and expectations for the program.
“We have a great group of girls that are excited about the season,” Floyd said. “Our program is finally at the point where expectations are raised and we are excited about that.”