The Waynesville girls are hitting the courts early this off-season to prepare themselves for a deeper run into the Class 5 playoffs next year

WAYNESVILLE — At a quarter until 7 a.m. Thursday morning the Waynesville Lady Tigers basketball team was hustling through agility drills on the basketball court.

Eight girls were sprinting, cutting and weaving around cones placed on the gym floor. Which is about average according to Waynesville coach Brittany Matlock.

“We've had eight to ten girls usually,” Matlock said.

She's had as many as 13 show up to the workouts though, a significant increase over previous years.

“This is the most we've had consistently,” Matlock said. “It used to be around five and [us coaches] would say, good we can go play.”

So the increase in numbers has been a welcome change.

A potential cause for the sudden influx is junior Kallie Bildner and senior Brianna Williams.

Matlock said they were the first ones to begin working out and they started while school was still in session.

After that, the workout bug spread to the others.

Matlock said the fact that the Lady Tigers finished 11-13 and lost by one point (58-57) in the Class 5 District 10 quarterfinal game to Lebanon could've done it too.

“If that doesn't light a fire under you, I don't know what will,” Matlock said.

Bildner and Williams see the need for improvement.

“We're not a very strong team, muscle-wise,” Bildner said. “So getting into weightlifting will get us stronger which means we'll get better on defense, offense and give us a better chance of scoring.”

And she practices what she preaches. Bildner was working out with the football team in the weight room at one point.

Williams thinks the work ethic of the girls showing up has created a buzz, bringing excitement and hope to the team.

“I think our intensity is a lot better than last summer,” Williams said. “Starting this early will help us a lot for next season.”

For those participating in the off-season, it's become more than just a self-improvement exercise, it's become a team-building thing too.

“I think our program is coming together more as a whole,” Bildner said. “Instead of not wanting to do anything, we have an urge of wanting to do the work. And we have a fun time together.”