Although the program must replace three starters, the Webb City girls basketball team returns a solid core this winter.

With that, the expectations are high inside the Cardinal Dome.

“We lost three seniors, but we return quite a few girls with varsity experience,” Webb City coach Lance Robbins said. “We feel like we have a good core back this year. And we feel like we have some speed and some size, and we’re looking forward to an exciting year.”

The Cardinals must overcome the loss of three departed starters, as Ali Vanzant, Madeline Hayes and Abby Brownfield graduated.

But Webb City returns a number of players with varsity experience.

The Cardinals will rely heavily on seniors Keira and Kajah Jackson, juniors Sierra Kimbrough, Jaydee Duda and Raven Vaughn, and sophomores Kenzie Robbins and Peyton Hawkins.

A versatile 5-foot-8 guard/forward, Keira Jackson earned all-district accolades last year. Robbins expects Kajah Jackson to fill the role Brownfield played a season ago.

The 5-4 Kimbrough will be the team’s primary ball-handler and can also provide outside shooting.

Duda (5-8) and Vaughn (5-8) are two other players Robbins expects to contribute nicely on both ends of the court this winter.

Senior guard Darcy Darnell (5-4) and sophomore post player Josie Spikereit (5-10) are currently out of action because of injuries. Darnell has been a varsity regular since her freshman season.

Robbins said he hopes to have both Darnell and Spikereit available at some point during the season.

“In the meantime, we’ll have to have some younger girls step up and fill the void,” Robbins said.

Hawkins is a 5-8 guard, while Kenzie Robbins is a 5-9 forward.

Coach Robbins said overall team speed and aggressive defense could be strengths of his squad, while creating depth will be a key to success in the always-tough Central Ozark Conference.

Webb City, 12-14 last winter, opens the season against Cassville at the Carthage Invitational at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5.

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