A new year is beginning at Benton Academy with Ed Waldrup starting this year leading the Lady Raiders as their new head coach.
This is Waldrup's first year with Benton, but as a veteran coach, he knows that there are some adjustments to be made for the upcoming season.
"Of course going in I knew we had a lot of work to do," he said. "These kids have been used to a different system and they will have to relearn everything. Every coach does things differently, so they have got to learn different things. We will all be figuring each other out, but we will get where we need to be after a little while."
Waldrup said that practices have been going on with handfuls of players at a time due to the girls being involved in multiple extracurricular activities, but they have managed to make it work.
The Lady Raiders recently made their first pre-season appearance at the Indianola tournament last week as a way to get their feet wet. Waldrup said that the tournament would give him an idea of where his team stood against other teams in the area.
"There was a team or two that I felt we could play with," he said. "So it was going to give me a good picture of where we were."
Game 1 took place on October 28, with the Lady Raiders facing off against Lee Arkansas. The Benton girls got a wake-up call in this first match-up falling 64-88 to the Arkansas team.
"We should have been able to play with this team," Waldrup said. "They shot almost 50 percent from the 3 point line. They hit 12 out of 27, so it was hard to overcome."
Waldrup added that even though Lee Arksasas sported a hot shooting game, that the Lady Raiders could have defended better, which did not make him happy.
The Benton girls seemed to learn a lot from Game 1, and bounced back in Game 2 against Deer Creek on October 29, where they won 42-34.
The Lady Raiders returned to the court on October 31 after a short break, and faced off against the Mississippi team, Clarksdale Lee, who ended up taking the win with a score of 58-27.
"Clarksdale Lee is a very good team with a very good coach," Waldrup said. "That's a team that right now is definitely better than we are. Even if we had played extremely well against them, they still would have won."
Taking this pre-season experience, the Lady Raiders and Waldrup will continue to take the time to smooth out their rough edges, and make corrections in the necessary areas before participating in Benton's pre-season tournament this week.
Waldrup said that he has faith in his 11 players this year, and said that there is some talent in even the youngest members of the team.
"I think this team could be pretty good," he said. "A team has to buy in to what you are trying to do. It takes some time, and I think they are slowly coming around."