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Blair Oaks girls open season today

Blair Oaks guard LeeAnn Polowy returns for her senior season with the Lady Falcons.

Blair Oaks guard LeeAnn Polowy returns for her senior season with the Lady Falcons. Photo by Kris Wilson.

The dream was cut short. Now it’s time for another shot.

The Blair Oaks Lady Falcons, ranked No. 2 in Class 3 a season ago, fell to Palmyra in a state sectional contest to end the season at 25-3. A trio of returning guards look to atone for that early playoff exit in 2013-14.

“We had a great year last year,” Blair Oaks head coach Leroy Bernskoetter said. “I think some of the seniors that we have that played a pivotal role in those games, I think they are (playing with a chip on their shoulder) because I think we were good enough to go on. Just for that night we didn’t get it done.

“They’re ready.”

Blair Oaks’ journey back to the state playoffs begins at 6 p.m. today when the Lady Falcons open the Eugene Invitational against the host school.

“We’ll get those jitters out, get that first one under your belt,” Bernskoetter said. “Eugene will be scrappy. It’s on their home floor. It’s early, so we’ll see what happens.”

The aforementioned trio of guards features Missouri State signee LeeAnn Polowy, fellow senior Sara Jones and junior Lauren Viessman.

Polowy headlines the bunch as a NCAA Division I commit, coming off a season that saw the shooting guard average 17.4 points and four assists while breaking the school record for career points (1,339) and 3-pointers (162). And she has another season to add to those gaudy totals.

“LeeAnn just has a love for the game,” Bernskoetter said. “She plays it at a little different level than a lot of girls, and that’s what makes her so good. She’s made her game better even this summer.

“She’s expanded that 3-point range, and that’s her bread and butter right there. She’s always been a great driver to the bucket. … She really could have an outstanding year.

“We’re looking for good things from her, and we know that, but we’re hoping some of these other girls will expand their game and that way we can be a pretty good team.”

Jones and Viessman appear likely to start alongside Polowy at the guard positions.

“Sara Jones, it looks like she’s ready to pick up some of that slack of the scoring we lost,” Bernskoetter said, referencing names like Amy Dorge, Darian Werdehausen and Amanda Rackers. “Same thing with Lauren Viessman. That’s what we’re looking at with those three.”

It’s a bunch of question marks after that.

“It’s up in the air,” Bernskoetter said, alluding to the fact there aren’t many proven options in the frontcourt.

“We have some girls that are there on varsity, but have not been proven. We are really untested with our size.

“We just have to find somebody to help us out a little bit under the board. We’re not real big, but we do have some younger ones with a little bit of size. Just a little lack of experience. Hopefully they get that and get better as the season goes on. Sometimes it’s not about how big you are, it’s how big you play. Hopefully we’re that way.”

There’s a bevy of candidates eager to see time down low, including Robyn Schroeder, Veronica Wiebold, Chelsi Emerson, Madison Abbott and Kellie Fredendall.

“We’re maybe going to have to play a little different style,” Bernskoetter said. “We have three good guards and some of the other kids that we have are guards too. At one point during the summer we had five guards out there. Press, run and gun and go at it.

“We’ll probably do a lot of four guards, one post. We’ll see as the season progresses.”

Payton Staggs and Paige Siebeneck have emerged as likely backup guard options.

If Blair Oaks discovers a few answers to those frontcourt questions, it could be another strong season for the preseason No. 9 team in Class 3, according to mosports.com

“We always love to throw out things and put them up there, about winning districts and all of that,” Bernskoetter said. “I think everyone has that, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t have those goals, but I always try to keep them a little bit simpler.

“If they work and get better every day in practice, those other goals will take care of themselves as far as the W’s. Those wins, those conference titles, those district titles will follow. We’d love to win another district and get to state, but that’s a long ways down the road yet. There’s some good teams this year in central Missouri.”

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