Nixa lost Jessica Lessmann and her 10 point-per-game average to graduation as she now plays for Evangel. Also gone are seniors Mandi Temple and Lauren Moats.
Even with those losses, Nixa returns an experienced unit.
“Expectations at Nixa are always high,” Nixa head coach Jim Middleton said. “This year is no different. We have seven returning letterman from last year’s 21-6 team. We also have 11 seniors and juniors vying for playing time so we do have an experienced group of upperclassmen.”
One of those returning seniors is guard Jeana Raper. The 5-foot-7 guard was All-District last season and averaged 10.2 points per game. Fellow senior Payton Klempel averaged six points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season.
The top returning junior will be Sydney Hammit as she averaged 12.1 points per game last season. Fellow juniors Angie Allen, Madison Wells and Alex Sorenson will also bring experience back to the floor.
The graduated players took a 20-point-per-game average with them, but their defensive presence will be missed as well this season.
“I think our biggest key is how good we can become defensively. We lost three very good defensive players in our seniors from last year,” Middleton said. “It all begins with defense. We play such a tough schedule and there are numerous college-bound athletes on these teams. You have to be able to contain those top players and take them out of their normal rhythm.”
On the offensive end, Nixa will see more of an emphasis on the paint.
“I think another key is our inside game,” Middleton said. “We have a veteran group of posts now and they need to step up consistently on the offensive end. We have been mainly an outside scoring team the last two years. I believe our posts have the talent now to be the go-to type of players we desire.”
Some new faces to watch out for this year are seniors Courtney Hagan, Alexis Holt and Schyler Thompson along with the junior duo of Kayla Copeland and Bailey Pratt.
Sophomores Carley Allen and Toshua Leavitt along with freshman guard Shelby Ewing will be the underclassmen to watch.
Nixa will work on forging an identity early in the season.
“The identity of this team is in progress,” Middleton said. “I do know it must be based upon defense first. In our program, we emphasize defense first and then everything else. We should be an up-tempo team that is fun to watch. We will get after it with our intensity.”
Nixa will open the season at 6 p.m. on Nov. 20 on the road at Harrison, Ark.