Questions surround this year’s Lady Toppers. There are holes to be filled and many things still to prove. But one group provides some stability.
First-year head coach Mary Taylor Cowles is looking to the team’s experienced seniors to help her lead the women into this season.
“I look for a lot of leadership out of our seniors,” Cowles said. “I think that is where a head coach looks first.
“They’ve got to be verbal with our younger girls, being vocal, demonstrating the way one is supposed to act, making sure everyone knows where to be and when to be there.”
Much of that leadership will undoubtedly come from fifth-year senior and team captain, Kristina Covington. She adds the extra fire and spark to an already enthusiastic senior class.
“My role is to be a leader on and off the court by the way I act, my grades, how people approach me and how other people think of me,” Covington said. “The girls can come to me whenever they need to talk. I would do anything for any of my teammates.”
On the floor, Covington looks to fill her leadership role by doing the little things that others don’t want to do, like taking charges.
“Whatever it takes to make our team win, that’s what I’m here for,” Covington said.
While Covington is described as a defensive machine by her coach, averaging 9.5 points and six rebounds last year, it is her offensive play that Cowles expects to see continue improving.
“Her shooting ability has improved over her five years more than any player I’ve ever seen,” Cowles said.
Another Lady Topper Cowles would like to see shooting the ball is senior Jennifer Slaughter, who’ll be looked to more this year than her 3.6 minutes per game last year.
“Jennifer Slaughter has got a great outside shot on her,” Cowles said. “If we can get her in a position to score on the perimeter, she is deadly.”
All four seniors are trying to uphold the Lady Topper image outside the lines, but their main priority is simply to make coach Cowles’ job as simple as possible.
“Coach Cowles is putting in some new things,” senior Shala Reese said. “Everybody is going to learn, the seniors are one step ahead. (Cowles) can only do so much from the sidelines. We can do some things and see some things that she can’t. It’s a 24-hour a day job.”
Reese, who grabbed 7.6 boards and 9.6 points a game last year, brings a strong presence in the paint as well as an unshakeable nerve.
“Shala brings an air to floor that only she has,” Cowles said. “Shala never gets rattled.”
Helping Reese down low will be 6-foot-4 Tiffiany Diggins. Diggins adds the extra size advantage that the team will need in the post. She averaged 6.2 points and 3.5 rebounds last year.
“If we can get Tiffiany to think ‘score first’ and to square up to the basket first, then I think we’ll get some big things out of her,” Cowles said.
Western will need big things from all its seniors to get the Lady Toppers back where they want to be.