The Lady Tigers, who open their season Saturday, have three senior starters returning and their other two projected starters are seniors, too.
Head coach Meredith Barnhill is looking to those seniors first of all to provide leadership, starting with Julia Roberson, the team’s shooting guard.
“I expect her to be a leader on the floor,” Barnhill said. “I’d like her to score for us, but we need her leadership on the court most.”
She wants Stephanie Kuhrt, an all-county and all-area selection a year ago, to pick up where she left off. “She’s going to be our leader on the floor, scoring-wise,” Barnhill said.
The small forward has been laying the foundation for improving her game on the practice court.
“She had a really good summer for us, and she’s improved in all areas of her game,” Barnhill said. “As a result, she understands the game better and sees her teammates better. I expect her to contribute in all aspects: scoring, rebounding, leadership and defense.”
A year ago Kuhrt dropped in 7.9 points per game and pulled down 5.3 rebounds. She also took 10 charges as she stepped up her defensive play.
If she improves her game this season, it should lift the whole team.
Mallorie Collum is the team’s returning post player.
“She’s going to be important scoring inside for us as well as rebounding and being a defensive presence on the block for us,” Barnhill said.
Collum received honorable mention to the all-county team.
“I have high expectations for those three and I have confidence they will arise to the occasion,” Barnhill said.
Starting at the guard/forward position will be Kelsy Hice.
“Kelsy was our sixth man last year,” the coach said. “Now she’s worked herself into a starting position. I have challenged her to be a defensive presence for us this year and to rebound both offensively and defensively.”
She added she is eager to see Paige Cole, a guard, assume the final starting role because of her hustle and ball skills.
“She had limited playing time last year,” Barnhill said. “During her career she has broken her ankle and as a result hasn’t had as much playing time as the other seniors.
“But she’s a very good shooter. She has a nose for the ball. She’s little but she’ll rebound. I’m looking forward to having her on the court and without injury problems.”
The coach expects the bench to make important contributions to the team’s success, especially Lexi Adams, a junior, and Victoria Davis, a sophomore, who are point guards.
“I expect them to contribute defensively,” she added.
She said she expects Logan O’Neal to contribute more and more as the season wears on.
“She’s a sophomore who will get JV and varsity time,” she said. “Logan is a 6-footer and she’ll get time at both levels.”
Rounding out the team are juniors Katie Graf, Avery Hudson and Emily Sexauer.
Barnhill said the team will continue to use a “read and react” offense this season but there should be some subtle changes.
“We hope to build on what we did last year,” she said. “With a read and react there are something like 16 levels and we will try to add levels to what we did last year.”
The coach is hoping for improvement in its performance in Region 5-AAA.
“We hope to sneak a few region games we’re not expected to win,” Barnhill said, “and we hope to make it into the playoffs and just see what happens from there.”
Last year Adairsville finished with a 12-15 overall record and it went 5-10 in its region. The coach said winning those extra region games will be tough.
She expects Sonoraville and Cartersville near the top of the region again.
“Sonoraville will be tough,” Barnhill said. “They lost a few players to graduation but they still have some difference makers.
“Cartersville is always tough. They have talent and they’re so athletic.”
The coach said her team will face some good non-region teams as well.
“We’re excited about opening up with Cass on Saturday,” she said. “They are an athletic team.”
She said the schedule also is featuring the return of another Bartow team.
“We’re happy to get Woodland, another of our county rivals, back. We have them on our schedule for a home and an away game.”