By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The tenure of Steve Poindexter at Munford High School has seen its share of college signees.
In past years players like Gabby Crawford, Mary Richardson, Phenicia Howard, Johnna Jones and Lindsey Owen just to name a few.
Now the latest departure from the Lady Cougars program playing on the collegiate level has left a huge void on the roster.
“Obviously Maiya was the leader for us,” Poindexter said of 2021 graduate Maiya Reed now at Walters State. “She did so many things for us. We definitely miss her. I think she’s worked really hard and put herself in a good position right now. We’re definitely proud of her.
“I really don’t think this is going to be a year we can say this one player is going to replace her,” he acknowledged. “It’s going to take a group. All the things she did for us, I think you’re going to see the leadership be more balanced and spread out with more players. It was obvious last year she was our do-everything player.”
In most major offensive categories Reed was the leader on the Lady Cougar roster.
“We’re not replacing Maiya, we’ll have multiple players stepping up,” Poindexter noted.
A couple of players on the 2021-22 roster who jump out in filling the gaps left by Reed are Abby Haun and Brezia Cooper. The leadership of senior Shelby Kendrick will play an important role in the development of Munford throughout November and December before jumping into the new district of Haywood, Covington, Ripley and Brighton.
“I am excited to watch them grow and develop,” Poindexter said. “It’s one of those things you’ve got to have some patience as coaches. We have a situation where we have players who have been here a few years. But carrying that amount of weight is different.
“It’s a whole new adjustment,” he continued. “You have players who have never carried any weight, freshmen, who we will depend on. It’s going to be a whole different experience for them adjusting to the new high school level.”
Helping guide the Lady Cougars in the new season is Howard coming home as an assistant coach.
“As a coaching staff the expectations are always high but when you lose a player who had such a leadership role,” Poindexter said, “you’ve got to have some patiences and have people fall into their natural place.
“We think we have some pieces and it’s going to be a process,” he added. “If they work together, work hard and continue to be coachable, by the end of the year I think we’ll be able to compete at a higher level.”
Kendrick is the only senior on the roster. She was injured last season around January and missed a chunk of the campaign.
“We missed her out there,” Poindexter said. “Then she had another injury with the other foot. She’s just now with everything going on and just started practicing. It’s going to take her some time to get back to the Shelby we’re accustomed to seeing.”
That missed time by Kendrick put a higher demand on Cooper and Haun. The underclassmen lodged several minutes and began to emerge as go-to players for Reed in the offense.
“They hadn’t had to carry the full weight of the team,” Poindexter noted. “Leadership roles are expected with them. They’re both talented players. And what we’ve seen over the last couple of months, Brezia has really improved. It looks like she’s handling the pressure of being the go-to player. She’s accepting that. She’s doing a good job of that.”
Now the new-look Lady Cougars join a new district with familiar foes. With most of the team located along Highway 51, the names are familiar.
“I feel like it’s a league that we can compete in,” Poindexter said. “I really don’t know where we would line up with every team right now. I am not really focused on that right now. I am focused on our team and getting better right now. I just know if we look at it like that, when the tournament comes we’ll be able to compete at a high level.”
From early season to the district schedule then arriving to the postseason, Poindexter has one question for his program in 2021-22.
“Are we improving,” he asked rhetorically. “Where are we going to be at the end? That’s why I am focused on us getting better everyday.
“I think you just want to feel good every time a practice and a game is over that we’ve gotten better,” Poindexter concluded. “There is no in between. You’re either getting better or you’re not. We tell our kids all the time we want to see you winning or fighting like you know what to win.”