FORT SMITH (KFSM)-For the first-time in 30-years there is a new Lady Lions' head coach pacing the court of the Stubblefield center. Elena Lovato took over after Louis Whorton retired last season, who was the most successful coach in U-A Fort Smith history.
"I knew it would be quite a challenge," said Lovato. "Just because coach Whorton had done such a great job, and he was super successful within his 30-years. So I knew I was filling a legends shoes."
One of the first steps Lovato made was setting up a challenging preseason. Having the Lady Lions face top-ranked teams across the Nation. Lovato knew that it was a tough early schedule, but she knew it would be rewarding down the line.
"It was very tough," said junior Tayla Taylor. "But, it prepared us. It' going to prepare us for conference play. We've gotten better on the court as a team. We've gotten faster stronger."
Despite the challenges of a new coaching system, the Lady Lions' have liked the adjustments made on and off the court.
"It's a dramatic change," said senior Sydney Franklin. "In everything, I feel like just her whole style of play her preseason everything is completely different. In a good way though."
Lovato plans to not only continue the legacy of excellence that Whorton created, but she plans to take them further than they have before.
"I hope that all of the hard work and everything that they are investing this year creates a great foundation," said Lovato. "To have a great program where we are on the national scene every year.
The Lady Lions will open Heartland Conference play on the road against Texas A&M International Saturday at 1:00 p.m.