Tahlequah lived a charmed life during the 2012-2013 season. The Lady Tigers cleared nearly every hurdle in front of them until Carl Albert proved to be too much in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
First, there was Desiree Phipps, who went down early in the season with a foot/ankle injury. Second, there was Jhonette Cookson’s abrupt dismissal in January. Finally — as if the first two weren’t enough — leading scorer Randee O’Donnell went down with a lower leg injury in the first round of the playoffs, and she missed the rest of the season.
No sweat. Tahlequah turned to the likes of Marisa Girdner, Whitney Wright and Casey Beaston to pick up a state tournament berth.
But all that is in the past now, and first-year coach Johnny Dyson knows his team this season will have its own collection of hardships to overcome.
“Each season is different and there will be a different set of obstacles for us to overcome this season,” said Dyson, who took over for Chad Walker. “Last year ended well. The road to state lined up well, and we did what we needed to do to reach the tournament.”
Dyson will attempt to get Tahlequah back to the state tournament, but he’ll do so without Beaston, Paige Carnes and three-point specialists, Maegan Blevins and Alissa Hadley. He will, however, still have the services of Girdner and Wright during their senior seasons.
“Contributors this season will be our senior duo of Girdner and Wright,” Dyson said. “Sophomore Lindsay Wade will also be a major contributor at the guard position. Then we’ll be looking at Reagan Clark to contribute from the post position.”
The biggest void to fill will be the one left by Beaston on the inside. That means rebounding and defending near the rim will fall squarely in the laps of some fresh faces in 2013-2014.
“As far as rebounding and inside scoring goes, it’ll have to be a group effort,” Dyson said. “Whitney Wright, Reagan Clark, Gillian Tinnin and Cailey Cunningham will all have to step in and provide these things.”
As for expectations following a 17-10 campaign last season, Dyson he’s going to set forth a basic guideline: just keep improving.
“My expectations are simple, we just want to get better as the season progresses,” he said. “If we can that then come February we should have set ourselves up to make a run again. I expect there to be possible bumps in the road during the first part of the season as a transition period, but I fully expect us to position ourselves properly for a playoff run.”