By Derek Shore (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Monett Lady Cubs have improved steadily under third-year Alyssa Kennedy, inheriting a team that was winless just three years ago.
In fact, Monett has not had a winning season since compiling an 18-6 record back in 2010-11.
The Lady Cubs, whose youth was a key factor last season, graduated only three lettermen in guards Emily Krueger and Sarah Childress as well as center Madi Bradford from a 5-17 campaign last year. Among seven returning lettermen, Monett returns four starters and have a shot to reach new heights this winter.
“In year three, I feel like we’ve begun to turn a corner as far as implementing our team philosophy and developing a solid team chemistry among our players,” Kennedy said. “We have a quality group of returners coming back who understand our system and have put in a ton of work in the offseason and over the summer.
“I’ve been extremely impressed with how hard our kids have worked on their own time to make themselves into better players.”
Monett will be spearheaded by leading returning scorer, and Big 8 All-Conference Honorable Mention Katie Schmidt (5-foot-9), who averaged nine points per game, three and a half rebounds, three assists, and two and a half steals over 25 games as a sophomore.
“Katie has played a significant role on our team since her freshman year,” Kennedy said. “She’s an extremely tough kid. That’s the type of player every coach wants on their team. She led us in scoring last year and will be relied on for a lot of scoring this year as well.
“We look forward to another big year from Katie.”
The Lady Cubs will also return a pair of quality seniors in Jordann Pugh (5-foot-9) and Kaylee George (5-foot-4) in addition to junior guard Alyssa Williams (5-foot-7).
As a junior last year, Pugh contributed two and a half points a game, grabbing five rebounds. Kennedy said she is one of the best defenders on the team, willing to do the “little” things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet. George is expected to be a big part of the team’s success thanks to her high energy and enthusiasm while Williams will look to settle into a shooting guard role after two years at point guard.
Leading a solid class of sophomores is multi-sport athlete Kaesha George (5-foot-8), who averaged 6.9 points per game to go with three rebounds, and two assists and steal a game.
“Kaesha is a great athlete and excels at each sport she plays,” Kennedy said. “She’s a great student of the game and had great success in her freshman season playing varsity. We’re looking forward to a big sophomore season from her.”
Sophomores Kelsey Dalton (5-foot-9) and Abby Patton (6-foot-1) also saw significant minutes as freshmen last year.
Kennedy described Dalton as a player that can “jump out of the gym” and hopes she develops into a well-rounded player, who can cause matchup problems on the perimeter and in the post. With stronger footwork and hands to become a threat in the post, Kennedy looks for Patton to be a big piece of the offense.
The Lady Cubs’ top newcomer is junior transfer Abby Kranz, who moved to Monett from Buhler, Kan. Kennedy said Kranz has played on quality AAU teams throughout her basketball career.
“Abby is a matchup problem who can shoot the three and also post up when needed,” her coach said. “We are looking for her to provide a great impact for us this season.”
Ultimately, Kennedy likes her team’s chances to continue its upward trajectory.
“I am looking forward to this year being one of our best yet in terms of success,” she said. “I know this is going to pay off for them as individuals and for us as a team. I think our team will continue to surprise and impress those who haven’t seen us in action in a few years.”
Monett opens the season at the Fair Grove Tournament, starting November 27.