Coach Todd Waters takes the helm of the Lady Raiders this season, and will start the year without one of his top players, Senior Kaylee Cotton.
The Lady Raiders’ all-time leading scorer and Lipscomb signee underwent knee surgery in the preseason and will miss the first few weeks while she heals.
Cotton will be sidelined through Christmas at least, and Waters hopes the first month of the season will allow his young team to grow and develop as a unit.
With only four upperclassmen on the roster, the Lady Raiders will have to hope the young players can adjust to the tougher level of play at the high school level. But Coach Waters thinks his crop of 8th graders, freshmen and sophomores can handle the task.
“The big step will be teaching them how to play varsity,” he said. “It is a lot different from middle school. They have to adjust to the faster speed and more physical play at this level. A lot of things that come pretty easy in middle school are a lot harder in high school and they will have to learn that.”
Cotton, one of the top-rated players in the 12th Region, averaged nearly 25 points per game in her Junior year, and will be called on to pick up where she left off last season after her return.
“The way the schedule lays out for the first part of the season, we should be alright,” Waters said. “Once Kaylee comes back, I think we are going to be hard to beat.”
McCreary returns several players who saw significant playing time last season, including Senior Cyndol Kiser, Junior Brooke Stephens and Brooke Sluder. Kiser and Stephens, along with Sophomore Lauren Phillips and promising 8th Grader Allyson Anderson are no strangers to the court and their continued improvement will go a log way to chasing Wayne County and Southwestern for a District title by the end of the season.
“This is a tough District,” Waters said. “Right now, I’d say Southwestern is about 20 points better than Wayne or us, but I think by the end of the year we can compete with Wayne, and have a good shot at beating Southwestern.”
Southwestern starts the year ranked third in the 12th Region after advancing to the Regional Championship game last season. Despite losing two of their top three scorers from last season, the Lady Warriors bring back Samantha Fitzgerald and Elisbeth Latham, two key components of the 48th District Champion squad from last year. They have a crop of talented young players to complement the big guns as well.
Wayne County is fully stocked again, returning one of the top players in the Region: Bethany Peyton. Along with Ashtyn Bell and Megan Burchett, the Lady Cardinals have their top three starters on the floor again, looking to improve on a disappointing 14-15 finish last season.
The Lady Raiders open up Thursday hosting Russell County and travel to Middlesboro the next night. On the following Monday they host Corbin, before facing their first real challenge of the season when they visit Wayne County on December 10th.