COLUMBIA — Hickman girls basketball coach Tonya Mirts had only three players who suffered ACL injuries in her previous 21 years of coaching.
Last year she had four players suffer ACL injuries. The Kewpies also lost starting point guard Kendahl Adams to a broken collarbone before January of this year.
“We were 16-and-2 before Kendahl got hurt,” Mirts said. “This year our expectations are very high. We want to have a 20-win season and get to the district finals game.”
The Kewpies ended last season with a 18-8 record. This year, the Kewpies will feature seniors Jade Holly and Cherish Walton. They look to be the team’s top scoring threats as well as the leaders of a young but experienced Hickman team.
“Jade is very quiet and leads more by example, while Cherish is more of a vocal and emotional leader,” Mirts said. “Both players can do a lot of different things on the court. We should be very good this year with them leading.”
Holly has played only one full season for the Kewpies despite being on the varsity team all four years. This is a result of two ACL tears and a left labrum tear. Holly is healthy now and says she is ready to make an impact in her final year.
“My injuries will always be in the back of my mind, but I can’t worry about them too much,” Holly said. “I know playing is a risk, but it is one that I am more than willing to take.”
In a year that Mirts has stressed communication, there is no one that she depends on more than Walton. When asked how she became a vocal leader, Walton shrugs and gives a big smile.
“It just kind of happened,” Walton said before laughing. “I always thought it was more that I communicated with the team, and everyone listened. Coach Mirts told me I was the vocal leader of the team, and I was like OK. Let’s do it.”
When asked about her senior counterpart, Walton just smiles and laughs again.
“Jade definitely leads more by example,” Walton said. “This is great because then I can say something for the players to do, and then tell them to watch Jade do it.”
Holly talks about having a good record and making a deep run in the state tournament. Walton said her No. 1 goal is to beat last year’s state champions and rival Rock Bridge.
Despite their differences in leadership styles and minor differences in team goals, both have high expectations for the Kewpies.
“We have a really good group of girls,” Holly said. “The only thing left I have to say is the Kewpies are going to be good this year. So watch out.”