The Capital City Lady Cavaliers are getting a fresh start in the 2023-24 season.
Former Sewanee University and Westminster College coach Tracey Braden has taken over the Lady Cavalier girls basketball program as Capital City prepares to open its home schedule tonight against Owensville.
Capital City opened the season Saturday at the Blue Fish Shootout in Rolla, falling 53-48 to School of the Osage.
Braden was 39-62 in four seasons at Sewanee. Before that, she coached 10 seasons at Westminster College in Fulton, posting a 155-100 record while leading the Blue Jays to NCAA Division III Tournament bids in 2012 and 2013.
Braden, the winningest women’s basketball coach in Westminster history, was inducted into the college’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.
“I’m a mid-Missouri kid,” Braden said. “I grew up in Versailles and my first varsity head coaching job was in California, Missouri. I coached 10 years at Westminster College. Mid-Missouri is home for me and I just wanted to get back home, get back to my roots.”
Braden takes over a Lady Cavalier program coming off its winningest season in the four-year history of the school at 8-19 last season. The Lady Cavaliers have had records of 7-18, 4-23 and 7-18 in each of the program’s first three seasons, respectively.
“I was excited (to take over a program that has struggled),” Braden said. “And ever since I have been around the ladies in this gym, I have not been disappointed at all. Do we have work to do? Yes. But they’re not afraid of hard work, they have good attitudes. They care about each other.”
The Lady Cavaliers feature two seniors in Jada Anderson and Michele Nauru. Amaura Austell, Danijah Fluellen, Addison Jones and Aslyn Marshall return as juniors with varsity experience and will be joined by juniors Karissa Driver, Felicity Pendleton and Marianne Peterson.
The Lady Cavaliers also have seven sophomores in the program with Kamryn Anthony, Jamila Lee, Kassidy Loethen, Bella Meysami, McKenna Schwarzer, Madilyn Shoemaker and Emily Thames.
Four freshmen enter the season in the program as Addalyn Carr, Brenna Schulte, Shoe Smith and McKenna Asare will take on high school basketball for the first time.
“Jada Anderson is a senior post player, she’ll start for us,” Braden said. “Addison Jones, she’ll start for us at the one, maybe the two guard. And Danijah Fluellen, I love that kid. She puts her whole heart out there. Those three, I can pour my fist on the table and say they’re in the lineup. The other two spots, I’m not sure. We’re gonna play around with those and see.”
Braden said she wants the Lady Cavaliers to get back to basics this season, focusing on the fundamentals and building from the base up. That focus will help create a solid foundation to build off of as the team moves forward, she said.
“I had a coach tell me this when I was an assistant. If kids can’t catch, they can’t pass and they can’t dribble, they can’t play this game,” Braden said. “So I think a lot of coaches the last few years, we’ve seemed to get away from focusing on fundamentals and making that a priority.”
With that focus on fundamentals though, Braden said she wants to create an environment where the players and coaches can flourish in their love of basketball.
“I want to create an atmosphere that kids enjoy coming to practice because I think when you enjoy doing something, you’re able to put more of yourself into it,” Braden said. “I’m passionate about this game and I’ve been coaching this game a long time, I played this game for a long time. I love this game and I think it’s important for those kids to see that I love this game because excitement, enthusiasm is infectious.”
That foundation will go forward through a season where the Lady Cavaliers play largely the same schedule as last year. They will play in the Tipton Tournament from Nov. 27-Dec. 2, the Twelve Courts of Christmas Shootout on Dec. 16, the Holiday Hoops Invitational from Dec. 27-29 and the Southern Boone Classic from Jan. 29-Feb. 2. In non-conference matchups, after tonight’s home opener, the Lady Cavaliers will go to Lebanon, host Blair Oaks, play at Eldon, Warrensburg, Sullivan and Mexico and host Father Tolton.
As the season tips off, Braden said she is looking for the infectious enthusiasm to take hold.
“I want to see them show excitement when they have success,” Braden said. “Whether that’s a transition layup, getting a defensive stop and score, running an inbounds play and scoring. I want to see them get excited and see that it’s coming together.”
Joining Braden on the coaching staff will be assistants Jaime Marshall, Alexis Roberson, Sharna Southwick and Brooke Rollins.
“I want us to operate the way I expect our team to operate,” Braden said. “We’re supporting one another, we may not always agree on everything, but at the end of the day it’s all about the kids and what we can do better for them. … Three new faces, two returners.”