By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Mandy Rogers begins her 5th year as the head coach of the Forsyth Lady Panthers and her 15th year overall. Rogers’ Panthers went 10-15 in an up and down season. The injury bug hit the Forsyth Lady Panthers hard last season, taking out several girls at one point. However, this allowed other girls to gain valuable varsity experience.
This year, Coach Rogers says that losing four players from last season will hurt. Ashton Davidson, Karissa Chambers, Dayva Cardwell, and Hailey McPherson were all letter winners for Forsyth but have graduated.
Davidson was all conference, team MVP, and the Lady Panthers’ top defensive player and will be hard to replace. Davidson was the glue that held the team together with her versatility and ability play any position. Her leadership both on and off the court will be missed.
“She, was our best defender, a good scorer and rebounder, and was one of the hardest workers we’ve ever had here,” said Rogers. “She was a captain for us and led our team in scoring, steals and assists. “
One of the players able to see extra playing time last season was Scarlett Texeira. Texeira was named to the All-Conference Team as a freshman. The 6’1” forward averaged 10.4 points per game and hauled in almost 8 rebounds a night.
“Scarlett played a lot of big minutes as a freshman last year,” said Rogers. “She was able to post quite a few double doubles despite drawing a lot of attention from opposing defenders. She keeps getting stronger and is excited to get back on the court.”
Hannah Sullenger is the lone senior on this year’s roster. Sullenger finished last season with a strong second half and Rogers is counting on her to step up as a leader this year. The 5’7” guard will be looking to improve on her 6 points and 4 rebounds per game average.
Junior Kaylee Henning is one of the three juniors that started games for the Panthers last year. Henning emerged into a starting spot last season after several injuries to her teammates and took full advantage. She had several standout performances, especially in the second half of the season, shooting the ball and leading the team in assists. In the month of February, the injury bug bit her and limited her minutes. She seems to be healthy and be ready for full time duty this season.
Kenlee Nuss and Emily Shipman are two other juniors who started games but battled injuries, as well. Nuss often plays undersized at 5’7” but has really worked on her guard play and outside shot.
“Kenlee had a great summer and is excited to get back in the gym,” said Rogers.
Shipman sat out a few months of last season with a broken foot and was limited in her minutes for the final month. Shipman is very versatile and can play all 5 positions.
“Emily is a great leader on the court and capable of taking over the game on both ends of the floor,” said Rogers.
Junior guard Calley Matthews (5’5”) returns as a varsity letter winner and will provide a defensive spark and “go–getter” attitude.
Triniti Sullenger, Katrina Drake, and Meadow Mardis are a group of sophomores that, due to injuries, were forced into action; they had some big games playing with the varsity last year.
“They have loads of potential and had a great summer,” said Rogers. “They add a lot of depth to our team, all are great defenders and can play a lot of different positions.”
Senior Brooklyne Romine will be back this season after sitting out last year due to personal reasons. She plays the post position well, and as a sophomore and freshmen gained varsity experience. Sophomore Morgan Blom will be a new face on the roster as well. Two freshmen, Emmalea Cook and Landry Stuart, will add depth on the varsity roster and will push for varsity minutes.
With only 1 returning senior, the Panthers will once again be young. Forsyth couldn’t catch a break with the injuries last season, but that also allowed many different girls the opportunity to get valuable varsity experience.
“We will have a tough schedule with a tough conference and a tough district,” said Rogers. “We know that every night will be a battle, but we are hoping that that experience will help to build us in the future. I’m sure we will have some growing pains, but hope to get better each and every night. We will have to rely heavily on our defense and keep teams off the boards to be successful. The more we play the better we get. I’m excited to see us grow and develop throughout the year.”