By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The accolades and stats are unmatched.
Four straight state championships. A state record 115-game winning streak. One of the greatest players the Ozarks has ever had.
The Strafford Lady Indians embark on a new era this winter, but the tradition lives on.
Expectations and standards are still high for the four-time defending Class 3 state champions.
“We have a lot of young ladies stepping into new roles who are ready to compete at a high level and get better each day,” said new Strafford coach Dustin Larsen, who coached the Springfield Catholic boys to the Class 3 state title game last season. “It will be exciting to see this group continuing to grow during the season.”
Despite a lot of graduation turnover, Strafford returns a lot of varsity experience.
Logan Jones, Taylor Dormann, Mica Chadwell and Taylor Treat lead a four-player senior class.
Jones, a 5’8” forward, is Strafford’s top returning scorer and rebounder. She averaged 7.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game last season and is Strafford’s lone returning starter.
The versatile forward has committed to play at Evangel University in Springfield next school year.
“She can play and defend several positions,” Larsen said. “She will provide us great leadership and experience.”
Dormann (3.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg) is the team’s tallest player at 5’10” and earned varsity playing time after moving in from Nebraska last year.
“She has a lot of upside,” Larsen said. “We are looking forward to her growth as a player and leader this season. She can play inside and out, which will provide matchup problems.”
Chadwell, also a standout volleyball player, has earned a reputation for her toughness.
“She’s a tremendous leader, competitor and defender,” Larsen said. “She’s a very capable scorer inside or out.”
Treat, who played in 17 varsity games, brings some similar qualities as Chadwell.
“She’s a great communicator and leader,” Larsen said. “She’ll bring us a punch on both ends of the floor.”
Also back is sophomore Emma Compton, who became Strafford’s backup point guard as a freshman.
“As a point guard, we’ll look to her for leadership,” Larsen said. “We look forward to seeing her improve in all aspects of her game.”
Strafford graduated a decorated senior class, led by twins Hayley and Kayley Frank.
Hayley, who now plays at Mizzou, is a two-time Gatorade Missouri Girls Basketball Player of the Year. She finished her prep career with 3,003 points, 1,629 rebounds and 824 assists.
Hayley saved her best for last, pouring in 34 points in Strafford’s title-game win over Lutheran North.
“Not sure any words can explain what Hayley and this group of seniors meant to our program,” Larsen said. “A player like her cannot be replaced. She has rewritten the records books, but more importantly she has been such a tremendous leader, person and example for our community.”
Kayley was also a multiple all-state selection and four-year starter. She’s now playing at College of the Ozarks.
“Great player on both ends,” Larsen said. “There’s a reason she’s now playing at ‘Hard Work U.’”
Strafford’s previous coach, Steve Frank, stepped down following last season. He wanted more time to watch his daughters, Hayley and Kayley, play in college.
Strafford also graduated starting guards Madison Chittenden and Kyndall Compton, along with reserves Taylor Chrisman and Paige Danielson.
“Madison had great versatility on offense and was a force on defense,” Larsen said. “Kyndall caused a lot of problems on defense and understood the balance of the team.”
Three juniors and a pair of sophomores are looking to crack the varsity rotation.
The juniors are Hannah Hess, Emma Reed and Kelsey Tate, all guards.
“Hannah’s a very solid and smart player who has worked to improve her perimeter play,” Larsen said. “Emma’s athletic and plays very hard. Kelsey’s solid and very fundamental. All will provide us great depth.”
The sophomores are Emma Mullings and Mattie Walker.
Mullings plays much bigger than her height (5’4”), Larsen said.
“She’s smart and brings strength and versatility at guard,” Larsen said. “Great defender and rebounder.”
Walker, at 5’10”, will give Strafford some needed height with the departures of the Franks.
“Mattie continues to develop and improve all aspects for her game,” Larsen said. “She gives us strength, depth and athletic ability inside or out.”
Despite a new head coach, Strafford won’t be overhauling its system completely.
“Our philosophy will be to play great defense, rebound and limit turnovers, while playing team basketball on both ends of the floor,” Larsen said. “We will be focused on improving each day, working hard and working together to grow as a team.”