Former Model girls’ coach Hazel Hall has moved from assistant to head coach of the Darlington girls’ team, while longtime Model assistant Robbie Dooley has taken over as head coach for the Coosa Lady Eagles.
Before her time with the Lady Tigers, Hall spent 25 years as a head coach at various programs, compiling a 388-246 record at Model, Dade County, Oconee County and Flowery Branch.
“I know a lot of people,” Hall said. “There’s a lot of connections. It’s cool because every time I go somewhere, like to the Christmas Tournament, you see people you haven’t seen in a long time.”
Dooley, a Pepperell graduate, spent 14 years as an assistant to Sally Echols at Model and said he has already seen a lot of enthusiasm from his new team.
“I don’t know if it’s a new coach coming into town, but these girls are hungry,” Dooley said.
Here’s a closer look at area teams:
Armuchee Lady Indians
Key returning players: Mary Kate Wheeler, Sr.; Madison Smith, Sr.; Grace Stanley, Jr.; Katie Shinholster, Jr.
Outlook: The Lady Indians lost four seniors from last year’s team in a season that saw them fail to reach the state playoffs after getting upset in the Region 7-AA tournament. Mary Kate Wheeler and Madison Smith return as the team’s only seniors and look to provide leadership to a young squad.
Coosa Lady Eagles
Key returning players: Gracie Shumate, Sr.; Nay Millsap, Sr.; Lainey Simms, Sr.; Kaylee Clayton, Sr.
Outlook: Coosa’s volleyball team brought home a second straight state title, and now the basketball Lady Eagles turn their attention to new head coach Robbie Dooley and ending a 10-year playoff drought. The team has the experience, being comprised of mainly seniors and juniors, and hope Dooley can bring some new life to the program.
Darlington Lady Tigers
Key returning players: Caroline Dingler, Jr.; Sydney Seymour, Sr.; Annabelle Braden, Sr.; Amelia Hoyt, Sr.
Outlook: The Darlington Lady Tigers are a perennial playoff team, and with a new head coach already familiar with their strengths and system, that won’t likely change. Darlington is an experienced group with only one senior lost from last year’s team.
Model Lady Blue Devils
Key returning players: Nia Allen, Jr.; Libby Upton, Sr.; Megan Kent, Sr.; Madison Harper, Jr.; Montana Moats, So.
Outlook: With Model’s all-time leading scorer Victaria Saxton now playing at South Carolina, the Lady Blue Devils have a void to fill. Head coach Sally Echols said the team will try to find new roles for different players as the team begins its hunt for a fourth straight region title after reaching the Class AA state semifinals the last two years.
Pepperell Lady Dragons
Key returning players: Maycy Owens, Sr.; Josie Mcgraw, Sr.; Mattie Blalock, Jr.; Kinsey Wright, Jr.
Outlook: The Lady Dragons pulled off upsets against Coosa and Chattooga as the No. 8 seed in last year’s Region 7-AA tournament to secure a spot in the state playoffs, saving the team’s streak of postseason appearances since 2013. Pepperell has only two seniors on its 14-player team, so head coach Jeff Rickman is expecting them to help guide the young squad.
Rome Lady Wolves
Key returning players: Tera Gibson, Sr.; Amberly Brown, Jr.; Tamaya Griffin, Sr.; Justice Moore, Jr.
Outlook: Jason Harris enters his second year as head coach of the Lady Wolves with high expectations. The team came away with third place in Region 7-5A and a first-round playoff appearance in his first year at the helm, but the coach is hoping to build on that success and make a deep run in the playoffs this season.
Unity Christian Lady Lions
Key returning players: Allie Hardwell, Sr.; Maggie Dyer, Sr.; Maggie Whitehead, Sr.
Outlook: Former Coosa standout Mel Thornbury enters her second year at Unity Christian after inheriting a team that had already enjoyed success. The team has won five straight GICAA Region I titles and advanced to the state semifinals last season. Thornbury said she expects her three seniors to continue that tradition as they help lead a core group of young players.
This is the first of two stories previewing the local high school basketball season. A story featuring boys’ teams will be in Monday’s edition of the Rome News-Tribune.