New Monroe girls basketball coach Jennifer Acree works with her team on defensive drills in a recent practice. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — As Lynsey Washington runs the court, warming up for an offseason workout at Monroe High School, she hears the familiar words.
“Let’s go,” new coach Jennifer Acree says.
Not once or twice, but often.
Acree, the former Dougherty High standout who guided Randolph-Clay to the last two Class A public school title games, including a championship earlier this season, wants her practices to be intense, upbeat and high-energy.
“That is the way our practices are always,” Washington said. “She wants us to push hard. She wouldn’t tell us ‘let’s go’ if she didn’t care.”
Decked out in the school’s signature green and gold colors, it’s taken Acree a little time to adjust because of the intense rivalry she shared with Monroe from her playing days in the mid-1990s.
“If you would have told me 20 years ago when I was 16 that I would come back and be the coach at Monroe because of the heated rivalry we had with them, I would have probably hit whoever said it,” Acree said. “But you get older and I’m still a Dougherty High alumnus, but I’m also a Monroe Tornado.”
Over the past month, she has learned a lot about her team. One thing is for certain — the Lady Tornadoes return a wealth of talent, including Herald Super 6er Key Key Price, to make another run at the Region 1-AAAA crown as well as a deep postseason run.
She’s also familiar with her new team — Monroe beat Randolph-Clay twice last year.
Acree said the transition hasn’t been a difficult one. The players have been positive, practices have gone well and she’s just about learned most of the names. She said her biggest transition was moving from Cuthbert to Albany.
She credits the previous coaching regime of Cheryl Cheeks and several assistants who helped the Lady Tornadoes conduct many voluntary workouts before the school year ended while she was honoring her teaching contract at Randolph-Clay.
Washington said that after they lost in the quarterfinals to South Effingham, the team wanted to get back on the court, correct the mistakes they made in that game and move ahead to next season.
Acree said the team is self-disciplined. They love basketball as much as she does, and they aren’t afraid to put in extra work to improve.
Even more than conditioning and teaching the X’s and O’s of basketball, the new coach has spent time trying to get to know her players better.
“Trying to learn them such as their likes and dislikes, as well as what motivates them has been different,” she said. “But they’re a great group.”
Cekeya Mack, a strong player inside, said the adjustment to a new coach was different but she knows what to expect now.
“She just wants us to work harder so hopefully we can win a state championship, something that hasn’t been done here in a while,” Mack said.
Now that the players are familiar with Acree, it’s all business.
As Washington and her teammates finish their conditioning exercises, they hear the familiar words again.
“Let’s go,” shouts Acree as they begin box-out drills.