As soon as the Dawson County Lady Tigers ended last season with a run that took them to the Elite Eight of the Class AAA tournament, Coach Steve Sweat said he couldn’t wait to see what the team would do this year.
Now it’s time to see.
The varsity basketball team that had not a single senior last season will boast five experienced seniors that Sweat said he will look to for leadership on a team that now has some maturity.
“I think experience is going to be the big thing plus the way that we were able to finish last year,” Sweat said. “I know that’s a long time ago but I am hoping we are going to continue that trend. If everything works out like it did last time I think we are going to be ok. If we continue to grow like we did last year and gain that experience and gain that much more experience this year with the kids being older, we should be able to compete with everybody we play.”
This year’s seniors are Kati Brady, Emma Brown, Abi Chatham, Calli Watson and Cadey Ayers.
“You expect seniors to step up and lead on and off the court. We are looking for these five to do that for us.
“Good group of kids,” he said. “That’s one thing too. I have been lucky again this year. Not only are they good athletes, they are good basketball players. They are good students and they are good people. That really makes it a whole lot easier.”
Joining those seniors are juniors Anna Lowe, Kennedy Moledor, Maggie Schandera and Kaylee Sticker.
“She [Sticker] was the leading scorer as a sophomore,” Sweat said. “So we have the leading scorer coming back. The experience and the numbers coming back should really help us.”
Last year’s team finished 12-18 overall but really picked up the pace near the end of the season when they surprised many by earning a second place spot in the Region 7-AAA tournament and then defeated both Lovett and Monroe in the first two rounds of the state tournament.
“Our record wasn’t the greatest but we had played really good competition through the season. It payed off in the end,” Sweat said.
Sweat is hoping that another year of good off season work, including a steady stream of camps and games in June, and stiff out of conference competition will again prove fruitful.
“Our kids they work. We work hard in the summer. That month of June, we fill it up. We are practicing and traveling and going to camps and playing three games a day. They are there every time.
“You know our region. You have to be ready to play every single game,” he said.
This year’s non-conference schedule includes Blessed Trinity, West Hall, Forsyth Central, Marist and White County.
“Our out of region games don’t get any easier, but that is on purpose too. Hopefully its going to make us better prepared when it comes tournament time,” Sweat said.
Sweat will also count on the play of sophomores Chloe Bennett and Marlie Townley who is recovering from knee surgery.
“Chloe helped us a lot at the end of the year,” Sweat said.
“Marlie is doing everything she can to get well and get released. She is working really hard on her rehab. We are looking for her to return and contribute. We don’t know when and how much,” he said.
The Lady Tigers have also added a North Forsyth transfer, sophomore guard Sophia d’Oliveira.
Though the official start of practices are not until Oct. 30, the team just finished up a fall league and open gym during the week.
Sweat said it is the hardest time of the year for him, waiting to be able to work with the girls and get going.
“This is one of the hardest parts for me. I got them right here with in arms reach and I can’t do anything with them,” he said.
Sweat said the girls are ready to go and he is counting on them being up to the task.
“We are going to have somebody in the region in the top 10 in the state. We hope it us,” he said.
“The girls on the team now, the ones that have played varsity, have been to state every year. Last year made five trips in a row to the state tournament. We have a good taste of going to state, we need a taste of winning it. That would be really nice to win the whole thing.”