By JACK CLARK
After a 23-6 record and a regional championship following the 2011-12 regular season, the Sesser-Valier/Waltonville Lady Red Devils will be looking to step up to the next level.
The girls are coached by Rick Metcalf, who begins his 22nd season as a head basketball coach and his second as coach of the Lady Red Devils. Metcalf coached the S-V boys for 14 seasons, as well as four years at Vienna, and was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2009.
“We pretty much have the entire team back, except for one. We lost Tasha Doerr. She’s playing over at McKendree now,” said Metcalf. “But we’re feeling pretty good about everybody that we have back.”
Metcalf has three senior starters returning for this campaign.
“Most notably Chelsea Miller, who was a first-team all-conference player,” Metcalf said. “Rae Lappin was a second team all-conference player, and Maegan Eskew. Those are my three seniors. They are my main players coming back.”
Metcalf’s team has some other returning weapons as well.
“Rachel Marlo is a three-year starter. Cheyenne Pitchford started some for us last year as a freshman and Mikala Williams is also a three-year starter.”
The Lady Red Devils also have some experience coming off of the bench.
“Our backups are Maty Garner, Bailee Jones, Mariah Miller and Katie Metcalf,” said Metcalf. “They all got significant playing time.”
Metcalf said that even with so much talent returning, S-V-W will probably still be picked as the runner-up in the Black Diamond Conference.
“Everyone will have Goreville picked. They won it last year and they’ve got everybody back but one (player). They’ve got an all-stater back. She’s pretty good inside,” said Metcalf. “I figure that we’ll be picked second and then after that Z-R (Zeigler-Royalton).”
Metcalf was hired the day before 2011 official practices could begin in Illinois, making for a short practice period before the season started. He didn’t have that problem this season and thinks that will pay dividends.
“Last year I got hired on a Thursday, had my first meeting on a Sunday and my first practice on that Monday,” Metcalf said. “That was kind of a last-minute deal. So I’ve had a chance to work with the girls this summer. I think that there will be little bit more intensity. We’ll play a lot of man (man-to-man defense). We’ll get after people. We’re feeling pretty good about it.”
“I’m looking forward to the season,” Metcalf said. “We’re all looking forward to that.”
The Lady Red Devils were scheduled to open their season on Nov. 14 against Trico at the Sparta Tournament.