Starting over can be a tough thing to do, and the Pulaski County Lady Cougars are working on rebuilding a program that for several years was a district and region contender.
The Lady Cougar have not had two things missing from their seasons the past two year…luck and a large number of wins.
In 2008 Jason Grubb took over the reigns of a solid program, and in his very first year his squad earned a 15-12 record and a trip to the playoffs. The 2009 season didn’t go as well due to some tough competition and injuries, but the Lady Cougars got back into the hunt in 2010 with a 19-6 finish. They found another winning record in 2011, but this time it was only 14-12. The playoffs didn’t last long for Pulaski that season.
The wheels came off the bus last year. With one key senior out with an injury, another that moved out of the area, and one that made the very tough decision to focus on another sport the Lady Cougars found themselves without a large amount of experience in the starting lineup.
“We expected this year to be a rebuilding year, and it is, but because of what happened last year we’re a little ahead of where I expected us to be right now,” said Coach Grubb. “When we lost all the girls we lost, the next girls in line had to step up. It was tough on them. We took our lumps. What we got from that though was a group of players this year that have a little more experience than we expected them too.”
That group consists of twelve young ladies. Three are freshmen, two are sophomores, three are juniors, and four are seniors.
The youngest three on the squad have the potential to be very good for Pulaski County, today and in the next few years to come. Tianna Crockett (5’8″, guard), Candace Alley (5’3″, point guard), and Rachael Greer (6′, forward) have all seen substantial action during the first three games of the young season.
The sophomores, Moriah Hinton (5’6″, guard) and Meredith Mitchell (5’8″, guard) are without question two of the best all-around athletes on the team. Both saw plenty of action last season as starters and made an impact on the district.
The juniors are a mix of power and smarts, able to play inside the paint or outside at the three-point line. Chelsea Golden (5’7″, forward) is most likely the most experienced of the three with three years of varsity play under her belt. Hannah Hancock (5’7″, forward) and Ania Austin (5’8″, forward) will both provide valuable minutes to the lineup.
The senior class may not have a “superstar”, but what they do have are four very hard working, very coachable, and very determined young ladies who are willing to do their part to make the team successful. Kennedi Hart (5’3″, guard), Tyra Redd (5’8″, guard/point), Maegen Memitt (5’9″, forward) and Carlie Clary (5’9″, forward) will be the team captains and will be expected to help guide the team to success. If their past work ethic is any indication of how they’ll do, these young Lady Cougars will be competitive at worst this season.
“The girls have worked hard through the entire off-season,” said Grubb. “We’ve played in several team camps and team tournaments, and our travel teams have been working hard. We know we’re still a work in progress, but the effort is definitely there. As long as we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’re going to continue to improve.”
The Lady Cougars started the season in a road matchup with Lord Botetourt. Always a tough test, the Lady Cougars dropped that game by a final score of 42-55. Despite the loss, there were still some good things that happened. Hannah Hancock led the team in rebounds with seven, and Meredith Mitchell led the team in scoring with 16 points. Mitchell and Chelsea Golden each had two three-point shots, while Candace Alley and Carlie Clary had one each.
Friday night the Lady Cougars traveled to Floyd County, and despite a valiant effort they quickly found themselves in a hornets nest. The end result was an 86-48 loss against a very good team.
Monday the Lady Cougars hosted Radford, and despite a good effort by the Lady Bobcats they simply couldn’t overcome or put a stop to the scoring machine that was Meredith Mitchell. The lanky sophomore blistered the Bobcats for a game and season high 37 points. Golden added twelve, including one from the three-point line, to give the Lady Cougars their first win of the season.
The Lady Bobcats actually took the lead several times, with their last lead of the game coming with 7:07 remaining in the game when they took a 53-52 advantage. Golden hit a key three-point shot with 1:38 remaining to move Pulaski ahead 64-59. Mitchell then hit two layups and a three-pointer to put the game away.
“We’re going to get better,” said Grubb. “With the experience our young players on the varsity squad are getting now, combined with the work the JV team is getting and the success that our middle school teams are getting, we’re pretty excited about the future.”
The Lady Cougars will take the rest of this week to work on correcting some mistakes, and then get back to action on Tuesday, Dec. 17 when they travel to Patrick Henry. Junior varsity action will get under way at 5:30, with the varsity game scheduled to start at 7 p.m.