By Chris Parker
Mountain Grove has a new head coach in Ashley Martin this season. Martin comes over from Licking where she led the Lady Wildcats to the final four for the first time in 40 years last season where they finished third.
“Mountain Grove seemed like the right move for me. It’s a great school district,” Martin said. “I’m excited to build upon the program that (former coach) Amy (McNew) had established.”
She will look to get Mountain Grove back above .500 after the Lady Panthers finished 6-17-2 last season.
“We are extremely young and inexperienced right now. Our consistency in ball control needs to improve. Mindsets need to change a little bit,” Martin said. “We need to really focus on our fundamentals and perfecting the basics and let that carry over into live play in order to have a winning season.”
Senior Kelsey Watson returns after earning first-team all-conference honors as a junior.
“Kelsey is going to have to be a consistent leader for us in all aspects of the game,” Martin said. “She’ll have to bring intensity, be a voice, and a constant push for everyone else on the floor.”
Classmate Gracie Farran gives Mountain Grove another returning all-conference senior to lean on.
“Gracie Farran is going to be a great teammate for us this year,” Martin said. “She has drive and passion and is truly good for everyone else on the team. She constantly encourages and pushes everyone to be at their best. I’m excited to see her showcase her abilities.”
Past those two seniors, there will be a lot of underclassmen in the mix.
“We have a lot of young freshman and sophomores that have a ton of talent. Getting them to gain their confidence and to trust themselves will be one of our biggest goals this season, but if we can accomplish that, we will surprise a lot of people,” Martin said.
The sophomores include: Samee Peterson, Logynn Foster and Claire Felker. Campbell Welch and Jozey McPhearson are two of the freshmen who could have an immediate varsity impact.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of difficulty for Martin trying to implement her system and philosophy at Mountain Grove.
“I didn’t get to even meet my team until the first week of June due to the pandemic. So with that, everything has been extremely difficult as far as trying to identify strengths and weaknesses, positions, rotations, etc. We are just doing what we can with what we’ve been given. That’s all we can do,” Martin said.
Mountain Grove opens the season on Aug. 29 at the Branson Tournament.
“I’m excited to see where our season leads us,” Martin said. “I think if we can get everyone on board with the same mindsets and work ethics, we could surprise a lot of people this fall.”