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Lady Vols short on numbers, experience


David Miller



STARKVILLE -- One look at Starkville Academy''s girls'' basketball roster reveals a non-typical lack of depth.  


With just eight players and no seniors, SA head coach Glenn Schmidt admits it''s not a favorable position in which to be.  


But where there''s talent, there''s a way to overcome a lack of experienced options.  


Schmidt hopes that''s true of her Lady Vols, who must replace three starting seniors with just one returning starter.  


"We''re gonna prepare these eight girls for the roles they''re gonna play," Schmidt said Wednesday. "Injuries are a part of basketball, and we''ll deal with it if it happens. I wouldn''t say it''s a great thing having eight players, because the perfect number for practice situations is 12 to 15.  


"But don''t count us out. These girls work hard." 


Point guard Anna Prestridge is the lone returning starter from last year''s squad, which went 19-15 and earned a first-round playoff berth. She averaged 6.5 points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 steals per game last season.  


Obviously, the weight of leading the team falls on her shoulders. She''s the on 


"Being the only returning starter, I''m going to have a big role to carry," Prestridge said. "I know I''m going to have to step it up this year, but I think we''ll be fine. We don''t have a lot of experience but we have good players." 


SA''s tallest players, Sallie Kate Richardson and Nora Kathryn Carroll, are also their youngest. Richardson (6-foot) and Carroll (5-foot-9) are both freshman but have been in Schmidt''s system as junior high players. Both played for SA in the Starkville Summer league, where they finished with a winning record.  


Schmidt feels she has enough firepower to be a solid offensive team, though she believes the team will have to sacrifice some practice time in certain areas to work on defense and rebounding. 


"One thing that will be difficult for me as a coach is the number of years they''ve spent practicing man-to-man defense," Schmidt said. "We''re gonna have to do a lot of work to compensate for that. Of course that''s the defense we like to play. We''ll play any defense it takes to win, but we''ve got some defense time we''ve got to cover in practice. 


"Rebounding -- it''s up to me to fix it. We''ve got to make a commitment to rebounding." 


The Lady Vols started their preseason weight program four weeks ago, working out at 6 a.m. twice a week. Now that softball and soccer seasons have ended, Schmidt has had her full squad available this week.  


Tuesday, SA beat Heritage and lost to Oak Hill by a point at an officials'' scrimmage in Columbus.  


The Lady Vols return to action Tuesday at Heritage''s preseason jamboree, where they''ll face Madison-Ridgeland Academy on Tuesday, Heritage on Wednesday and Carroll Academy on Thursday. 




Lyle leaning on senior trio 


First-year Volunteers coach Chris Lyle inherited a team with few aspects to consider "sure things." 


Coming off a two-win season, the Volunteers'' lone certainty was its core of seniors. 


The trio of J.R. Gerhart, Adam Crittenden and Pat Jones were starters on last year''s squad and obvious candidates to lead this year''s team.  


Lyle just hopes they realize what all their jobs will entail. 


Points, rebounds and assists are essential, but attitude, leadership and consistency are what Lyle needs for the team to win games. 


"AS a coach, you like to have your seniors step up and take that role," Lyle said. "You don''t want to put a whole lot of pressure on those younger guys. Those guys are going to carry us.  


"There used to be a time when no one wanted to step on another guy''s toes. The younger guys have to see how the older guys handle themselves on and off the court.  


"Those three seniors are gonna be the nucleus and the rest off the team feeds off them. 


Two of the three -- Pat Jones and Adam Crittenden -- are football players who won''t hit the court until Nov. 1, just three days before the Vols open the season against Lamar School. But the energy Jones and Crittenden will bring from an improved and confident football team is just as important as adding two experienced players. 


Right now, Gerhart is leading the team through its preseason practices and weightlifting sessions. Gerhart, a guard, led the team in scoring a year ago. 


"A great kid, student and player," Lyle said. "I challenged J.R. to take the bull by the horns and he''s really become the leader I needed him to be." 


The Vols won''t compete in a preseason tournament or scrimmage. The team will hold intrasquad scrimmages ahead of its season opener.  


Lyle''s plan will be to continue improving the conditioning and focus of a team he deemed "careless" with the ball last season. 


"When I watched some of the film on them there was some of that last year, just throwing the ball away," Lyle said. "We just can''t beat ourselves. We''re not good enough yet.  


And a lot of our offense this year has got to be because of how hard we play defense."



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