Forest Park rising senior Cydni Bivins will be counted on to move into a starting role this season as the Lady Panthers attempt to reach the Class AAAA finals for a second straight season.
By Derrick Mahone
As Cydni Bivins sees it, last week's win over Fayette County came about three months too late.
Forest Park defeated the reigning Class AAAA state champions in a summer league game. But it was Fayette County's 55-45 win last March over the Lady Panthers that secured the school's first state title.
The Lady Panthers have been working since the school year ended in late May to get back to the title game. In all, coach Steven Cole said his team will play between 60-70 games this summer in preparation of making a third straight trip to the Class AAAA final four.
It was a good win over Fayette County, but it came a little too late," Bivins said. "Our goal is to take it all this year."
To do so, the Lady Panthers have to replace three key starters and two other seniors on a squad that lost only once to in-state competition last season.
Starters gone from last season squad is Keyonna Allen, Jessica Anderson and Nikki Wilson. Keirra Dennis, a top reserve, has also graduated.
For the Lady Panthers to remain in the title hunt, Cole is counting on several serves to fill the starters' role this season. Bivins will likely be inserted into the lineup.
"Some people will play different roles this season," Cole said. "We are counting on them to step up. It will be a little different from coming off the bench into a starters role."
Bivins said she is ready for the challenge.
This summer, she has made four unofficial college visits, and has garnered an offer from Jacksonville State.
"I'm doing a lot more this summer as far as getting in the weight room, and putting more shots up," said Bivins, who provided some instant offense off the bench for the team last season.
A big loss has been sophomore Tiffany Wilson, who will miss the entire season after having knee surgery. She was being counted on to fill the void left by the graduation of Allen and Wilson, who will attend Presbyterian and Albany State this fall on athletic scholarships.
"We were definitely looking forward to her moving into the lineup," Cole said. "She was coming alone well at the time of her injury."
The backcourt is back intact with rising senior Ashlee Cole and rising sophomore Kayla Potts. Cole, who has several college offers, averaged 18 points and was named the Clayton News Daily Clayton County
Player of the Year. Potts averaged 12.4 and was a second team All-Southern Crescent selection by the Clayton News Daily/Henry Daily Herald.
Between summer camps at Georgia State and Clayton State and summer league games, Cole said the team is gaining enough experience with the younger players. The team had to cancel a trip to Florida for a camp after Steven Cole had to have knee surgery.
He said it was a setback missing the camp, but feel the team will benefit enough from the amount of games they are playing.
"We are playing a lot of games," Cole said. "At this stage, you are not worried about wins and losses, but getting in enough games. We will be a different team with a different personality this season."