WARDSVILLE, Mo. - The Blair Oaks Lady Falcons basketball team might be young, but it sure is scrappy.
"I think for us, we're going to have to play that way," coach Leroy Bernskoetter said. "Again, are you going to walk out on the floor and go, "They're an opposing team'? We're not. But they've got to play with a lot of heart and they've just got to scrap. They've just got to get smarter. They've got to just keep trying to get better. That's our thing in practice. Every day, if five girls are getting a little better, then the team gets a little better."
The Lady Falcons will put that practice to work at 7:30 p.m. today when they host Helias in their season opener.
The Lady Falcons are coming off two straight conference championships, and Bernskoetter said it is a goal for his team to continue that run. Last year's team dropped the Class 3 District 8 title game to Boonville, 55-33, after defeating Hallsville and California.
The Lady Falcons lost Missouri State commit LeeAnn Polowy from that team to graduation. Bernskoetter expects Lauren Viessman, a senior with two years of varsity experience, to be a leader on the team. Senior Chelsi Emerson logged a lot of work on her shot during the offseason, Bernskoetter said, and Veronica Wiebold and Robyn Schroeder complete the senior crew.
Bernskoetter said the seniors are showing younger players the ropes.
"They've each got a younger girl that they're trying to mentor, and they're a good bunch," he said of his seniors. "Again, they just have to understand what role they're going to play, and what theu have to do to make the team successful and see if they can just get better at whatever they do. They're a good nucleus for us, and we'll fill in the other spots."
Bernskoetter highlighted Macyn Wilbers, Sarah Wolken, Carli Buschjost and Kallie Kerperin as newer players who could help fill those spots.
This year's team plays in District 9, along with fellow District 8 transfer Eugene.
"We're in a tough district with Fatima and St. James," Bernskoetter said, "but we just have to see how well some of the younger ones come around and we can stay away from injuries. ... There's a lot of good teams in central Missouri. Southern Boone's going to be decent. Eldon. It's just one after another. California. We can go on and on. It's going to be a tough road, and each night, I think, is going to be tough."
Today's game is the Lady Falcons' last until Dec. 1, when Blair Oaks begins play in the Eugene Invitational. Bernskoetter said he doesn't love having a game before Thanksgiving, but Blair Oaks had to schedule one when a different date fell through.
"That's a tough one to start off with, Helias," Bernskoetter said.
The Lady Falcons got a sneak peek of the Lady Crusaders in Friday's Jamboree at Helias. Blair Oaks fell 22-12 in a 12-minute scrimmage against Helias.
Bernskoetter felt like the loss came down to some late turnovers by the Lady Falcons, which the Lady Crusaders were able to convert on a series of shots to claim the lead for good.
Though Bernskoetter said it was nice to see his team's opening opponent ahead of time, he doesn't think he got too thorough of a cheat sheet.
"We probably didn't see much," he said. "We didn't show much either. We didn't change up much, and so we didn't show a lot, and I know (Helias coach Doug Light) probably didn't either. So it'll be a different story next (today). Coach Light does a pretty good job, and he's got a good job, so they'll be a handful (today)."