By Chris Parker
Rolla girls basketball was one of the area’s top teams over the past two years posting an overall record of 47-8. The Lady Bulldogs came up short of a second straight district title last year with a loss to Sullivan in the district title game.
Four seniors who were important pieces for those 47 wins graduated last spring. That group included: Rebecca Janke, Ellie Rodgers, Loran Pritchett and Kate Brand. Janke and Rodgers were both first-team all-conference selections. Pritchett was honorable mention all-conference. In addition, Janke was named the All-Ozark Conference Defensive Team.
“I will miss their presence as individuals the most. They were great kids on and off the floor. They helped keep everyone positive and were a great example of what leadership looked like. Also missed will be what they brought to the table for us,” Rolla head coach Charley Parker said. “Losing Ellie Rodgers who was an all-state player and an all-conference and district player a few years. She was a 1,000-point scorer. Her presence and ability to take over a game will be missed. Rebecca Janke’s size and post presence on both ends of the floor will be hard to replace. She set the state record last season on field goal percentage in a season at 88.7% and set the record for career shooting it at 82.8%. We will definitely miss her on the defensive end helping protect the rim and rebounding. Loran Pritchett was an all-around great player for our program. Her leadership will be missed a ton. I will miss her on both ends of the floor. She typically guarded the opposing team’s best player, and could cause a lot of matchup problems on the offensive end with the ability to play next to the basket or out around the perimeter. All of these young ladies along with Kate Brand were great teammates and had amazing careers at RHS and will be missed in our program.”
Juniors Carli Libhart and Savannah Campbell will be looked to for increased leadership and production this year. Both were named honorable mention all-conference last year. The duo was second and third on the team in scoring at 8.7 and 8.5 points per game, respectively.
“With losing the leadership that we lost this past season, I will look to these young ladies to step up into this role. They have both been at the varsity level and started at this level for some time. Both were all conference players last year and Campbell was an all-district selection as well. I will look for them to each make a larger impact on both ends of the floor this season while looking to make each individual around them better,” Parker said. “Carli Libhart is our point guard does a great job facilitating and getting us to where we need to be offensively. She shoots the ball well from beyond the arc but does a really good job getting to the rim off of the dribble as well. Savannah Campbell will play the 4-5 for us. She has improved a ton from last season and I think she will be a load for some teams to handle. She does a good job playing with her back to the basket and has the ability to step out around the arc and take her defender off the dribble or knock down the outside shot.”
Juniors Taniya Corley and Madison Mace had strong summers. The duo played 27 and 26 games last year while scoring 4.4 and 3.8 points per game, respectively.
“Taniya Corley had a great summer for us. She has developed a lot of confidence. She can shoot the ball well and plays really good defense,” Parker said. “Madison Mace had a good summer. She is probably one of the better on-ball defenders in the area. She takes pride in playing defense and her intensity and fire gets our defense going. She has developed a good outside shot and will be a threat to help expand the floor this year.”
Junior Sara Coverdell led the junior varsity in scoring last year. She will look to recreate that success on the varsity level this season.
“Sara Coverdell is a young lady who I think will be a huge contributor this season. She led our JV in scoring last year, and saw some minutes at the varsity level. Sara can shoot the ball really well and once she adjusts to our level of play I think she is going to have a great year,” Parker said.
Keira Chrisco will could see big minutes backing up Libhart at point guard.
Rolla’s junior varsity was 23-0 last year. Many of those players will look to step up the varsity level this year.
Maycie Montgomery is the lone senior on the roster and will provide inside presence. Juniors Riley Wassilak and Callie Harmon along with sophomores Jessica Pritchett and Faith Coats and freshman Willow Gideon will all be in the mix for varsity minutes.
Rolla has relied on size the past few years, but that will have to change this season.
“We do not have the size that we have had the past few years, so we are going to get creative,” Parker said. “We are going to have to play at a faster pace and take what the defense gives us. We are going to have to really strive for our defense to lead the offense this year. We are deep this year, I could play anywhere from 8-11 girls and feel confident that they will get the job done.”
Rolla opens the season on Nov. 20 at home against Jefferson City.
“I am excited for this year’s group. This is my second year in the program, so they are finally familiar with how I like to do things. Our key will be how well we execute. I think we will have an opportunity this year to be successful again. This junior group is 47-8 in their career so far, and I toughened up our schedule to help prepare for our conference and districts,” Parker said. “I feel that we are good enough to beat some of the better teams, but if not it will only make us better. If we can overcome some adversity, battle, continue to get better and keep our mind on the end goal I think we can have a great year. We just need to stay together as a family and stay humble.”