Madison Southern girls basketball coach Allie Turley is optimistic about his experienced team as he enters his first season as head coach.

While he admits that every team goes through a learning curve with new coaches as they adapt to new systems and leadership styles — and the Lady Eagles are no different — Turley said his team has progressed rapidly and he was surprised at how smooth the transition has been.

“It’s been an absolute blast. I’m very fortunate to have a great group of talented young ladies,” Turley said of the summer spent getting to know his new team. “It’s the first time in my coaching career that I’ve shown up and the cupboard wasn’t bare. Often times, you come in and you have to rebuild everything. I actually told former coach Summer Simmons, ‘Thank you.’ I inherited a great team. They really understand the game and really know how to work hard. It’s made this a lot easier. She did a great job.”

After losing just three seniors to graduation — including just one starter — the Lady Eagles return much of the main squad that helped push Southern to a 16-14 season last year and the program’s third 44th District Tournament Title.

The Lady Eagles will be loaded with experience this season as the team has six seniors on the roster.

Seniors Sunni Walters, Aleigh Richardson, Hallie Harrison and Skylar Sparks played in all 30 games last season and Turley complimented his upperclassmen on their work ethic over the summer.

“Their leadership has been phenomenal. They all have great capability and have done a great job of building up the team and keeping that team chemistry strong,” the coach said.

Richardson was the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder last season while Walters was the second-best three point shooter on the team.

In addition to the senior class, the Lady Eagles will also return a strong junior class.

The team’s leading scorer and rebounder, junior Samantha Cornelison, will once again be a big component of the Lady Eagles.

As a sophomore, Cornelison averaged 15.1 points and 7.1 rebounds rebounds per game while leading the way from beyond the arc with 64 three-pointers made.

Caylen Conrad and Jayla Wiseman round out the junior class.

Sophomores Macie Daniels and Morgan Flannery will also feature heavily in rotation for the Lady Eagles this season, Turley said.

Flannery played in all 30 games last season and was among Southern’s biggest threats from long range.

“Morgan will likely be taking over the majority of point guard duties for us this season,” Turley said.

Sophomore Reece Estep tore her ACL last season and still has not been cleared to play, the coach added.

Turley said he feels like he has a balanced team.

“I’ve got a good mix between young and old. We have some good talent and already have a good foundation for building for the future,” Turley said.

The coach said the Lady Eagles have been working on upping their defense over the summer.

“We are working on trying to let our defense turn into offensive plays. (My system) is definitely defensive-minded and creating that defensive pressure. We’ve been working on really getting after that and having high energy and work ethic,” Turley explained.

The coach said he has been pleased with the dedication from his team this summer.

“We might not always be the most talented team on the court, but I want to be the team that nobody can outwork,” Turley said. “These girls have good basketball IQs and we have been working hard all summer.”

The Lady Eagles only have 11 home games on their schedule this season, which features matchups with some tough 11th Region opponents.

After Southern’s home opener against Powell County on Monday, the Lady Eagles will have three-straight road games before taking on Danville in Berea on Dec. 12.

“We will definitely be the road warriors this year,” Turley said with a laugh. “We have a challenging schedule. I am of the belief that you have to play the good teams in order to really grow and get better. The 11th Region is one of the toughest region in the state for girl’s basketball and we want to be competitive. The more teams we can play, the more we can grow and get better as the season goes on.”

Turley said one of Southern’s goals this season will definitely be capturing back-to-back district titles.

“We certainly want to be able to compete for that district title again. Our goal, based on what they did last year, is just to keep growing and continuing to be competitive,” the coach said

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