Warren County High School girls basketball coach Erick Baird has had Oct. 29 circled on his calendar for a long time.
It was the first official day of practice and coach Baird and the Lady Pioneers hit the court running.
Without two players coach Baird referred to as pillars of the Lady Pioneer program, Warren County will need to revamp its lineup and the focus will be on conditioning and defense.
Coach Baird noticed on the first day how different it seems to begin practice without Lauren Wilkinson and Bree Smith, two star seniors who were mainstays in the starting lineup after Baird took over the Lady Pioneer program in 2009-10.
Losing Wilkinson and Smith means the team will need to replace over 75 percent of its scoring from a season ago, along with the toughness and leadership that led the Lady Pioneers to back-to-back regional tournaments.
Coach Baird believes his team can do it, but the work will need to be put in during practice.
“It felt weird without Lauren and Bree that first day, but we’re working hard to find players to step up and take their spots,” said Baird. “This team has a lot of speed and the young players are hungry to prove they can compete.”
Competition has been preached in each practice as the Lady Pioneers have been put through a gauntlet of one-on-one drills.
The physical nature of practice will hopefully carry over to games when Warren County starts its season Thursday, Nov. 15 in the Think Pink Hall of Fame tournament held at Charlie Dalton Gym.
It is one of four tournaments Warren County will play in this season. The Lady Pioneers are also scheduled to compete in the Mitch Wilson Classic, Sun Drop Romp Christmas tournament and Wildcat Classic.
The Lady Pioneer schedule also includes games against District 6-AAA counterparts White County, Cumberland County, Coffee County and Cookeville. Warren County will also play DeKalb County, Tullahoma, Franklin County and Cannon County in home-and-home series, along with a road game at Centennial Saturday, Dec. 8.
Coach Baird is joined on staff this season by Erica Bragg for the third year and first-year assistant coach Anthony Lippe.
The Warren County High School boys preview will run in Sunday’s Southern Standard.