In just their fourth season, the Lady Knights cruised to a 22-9 record and went 10-1 in Region 7AAAA. They went on to win the region title and advance to the third round of the Class AAAA state playoffs before falling to Columbia.
River Ridge coach Jason Taylor isn’t spending much time looking back on the team’s successes. Rather, he is looking forward to future ones.
The Lady Knights were young last season and with the exception of five graduated players, they return the bulk of their team.
While the losses — particularly those of Jordan Livesay and Parker Nayman — will be felt, Taylor is confident that this year’s class of seniors — including Jessica Baker, Lucy Stone and Georgia Southern signee Jessica Mlaska — will rise to the occasion. All three are expected to earn their fourth letter this season and Taylor has coached two of them for five years.
“For the first time since being a head coach, I finally feel like I’m having the real coaching experience, having to replace kids,” Taylor said. “But I’m really excited about the leadership that (Mlaska, Baker and Stone) bring to the court. These girls are great examples of what we want
Freshmen Ansley Lathem and Charley Amissah-Reyes have joined the team, with Lathem already earning a starting spot. Other newcomers include sophomores Ally Surovchak, Camden Pruitt and Leonor Nickell.
Two games into the season, the Lady Knights are 1-1. They opened with a 51-44 loss to Creekview before rebounding with a 60-33 victory over Woodstock.
With a tough non-region schedule, including games with Sequoyah, Sprayberry, Etowah and Cherokee, ahead Taylor hopes to be battle-tested when the Region 7AAAA (A) season begins in mid-January.
Pickens and Gilmer are expected to challenge the Lady Knights for the region title again this season. A year ago, Pickens handed River Ridge its only region loss of the season.
Still, River Ridge will likely face its greatest challenge in the middle of February, when the state tournament gets under way. Whether or not the Lady Knights win the region title they will likely make the Class AAAA state tournament.
And after coming so close to the state semifinals a year ago, experience could give River Ridge the edge it needs.
“I think the sky’s the limit with this season,” Taylor said. “They are dedicated and should be battle-tested by the time we reach region.”