By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In head coach Grant Berendt’s second year at the helm, Mt. Vernon captured its fourth-straight district title.
The Lady Mt’Neers finished the 2019-20 campaign with a 23-7 record, capturing the Big 8 Conference East Division and Class 3 District 12 titles along the way.
Even more impressive is the fact Mt. Vernon accomplished everything with only two upperclassmen on the roster.
“We were a work in progress the entire season,” Berendt said. “This team last year had to build their identity as the year went on. We were a very young team last year; no seniors and only two juniors made up our 16-player roster (with 11 of those being freshmen). Our players really bought into their roles and we tried to play to our strengths to have some success last year.”
With zero losses to graduation, the Lady Mt’Neers will look to roll it back with an almost identical roster from last season’s squad that fell in the state sectional round to eventual Class 3 champion Strafford.
Senior point guard Lacy Stokes will once again lead the Mt. Vernon attack.
The all-state selection averaged 22.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 4.5 steals per contest. Stokes also garnered Big 8 East Division Player of the Year, all district, all area (4SBCA) and all O-Zone honors.
Classmate Ellie Johnston and junior Cameryn Cassity also return to provide plenty of offensive firepower.
Johnston (15.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 2.1 spg) was named to all-conference, all-district and all-area teams, while Cassity (8.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg) earned all-conference honors.
Additional returnees include juniors Raegan Boswell and Jolie Prescott; along with sophomores Allie Schubert, Lily Davis and Kadence Krempges.
Senior move-in Lisa Kruger is also expected to make an immediate impact this season.
“We are excited about the upcoming season,” Berendt said. “We have a conference and district championship team that returns all of our letter winners that played a huge role in last year’s success. I believe we have a team that has players that have seen what it takes to carry on our tradition.”
With plenty of talent, experience and depth on the roster, Mt. Vernon has good reason for its high expectations; however, Berendt realizes the team will face additional challenges outside the realm of basketball this season.
“We are practicing, playing and going to school in unprecedented times,” Berendt said. “As a school we have taken precautions to help protect our students and our athletes from the virus. Our students and athletes have done a really good job at also understanding that certain things have to be done in order for all of us to stay safe and have a season this year.”
Mt. Vernon opens its season Nov. 24 against Nevada.