AKRON – Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball coach Chris Kindig has to replace four starters from last year’s team that went 20-4 overall and 7-2 in the Three Rivers Conference.

Those are big shoes to fill, those of Addy Miller, Asia O’Connor, Olivia Trippiedi and Emily Peterson.

The first three graduated, while the latter injured her knee during a sectional game in February, has since transferred to Warsaw and is not playing this season.

The one starter Kindig does return, however, has the ability to shoulder the load while her less-experienced teammates grow into their roles.

Sophie Bussard, the 2018 Times-Union All Area Player of the Year, returns for her senior season after averaging 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals per game.

Bussard is committed to NCAA Divison I Southeast Missouri State University.

Before she heads to the Show Me State, though, she has another season to show the Hoosier State what she can do.

“She’s better than she was last year,” Kindig said of Bussard, who in her three seasons on the varsity team has helped the Lady Vikings to an overall record of 67-11 and a 25-2 mark in the TRC.

“She’s jumping better, she’s shooting the ball extremely well. I always said that about Anne (Secrest) ... every year she made some progress, well guess what, Sophie’s done the same thing.

“I don’t know that I saw it that much this summer when we played as a team, but this last week and a half or whatever that we’ve practiced, she’s remarkably better. I hesitate to say that because she was really good before.”

The big thing for the Lady Vikings this season, said Kindig, will be getting production from the rest of the lineup.

Valley’s nine-player varsity roster also includes senior Kennedie Brooks, juniors Makenzie Woodcox, Karina Young, Emma Craig and Jillian Walls, and sophomores Sidney Wagner, Hayley Backus and Ashley Butler.

“The key for us is we’ve got to be able to have other people take the pressure of Sophie,” said Kindig. “I think that we need to get our posts involved a lot more than we did last year.

“Makenzie Woodcox started on and off for us last year. She’s very athletic and long, she’s close to 6-foot-1. She jumps pretty well. We need to give her opportunities to score.

“I’m really high on Haley Backus. She’s about 6-foot. She’s improved a ton from where she was as a freshman last year. She’s gonna help us a lot. She’s starting to get the hang of things around the basket.

“Karina Young, a junior, she’s gonna be in the rotation. She’s another one that’s capable, she’s got some athletic ability. She’s capably of doing some things night in and night out.

“I really like what we have with our post players. So we’ve got three post players, and Sophie’s kind of a wing or small forward type, and then we’ve got a bunch of guards.”

Valley opens the season tonight at Bremen and will play its first five games on the road.

The Lady Vikings travel to Culver Academies Tuesday, followed by games at Warsaw (Nov. 9), Logansport (Nov. 13) and Three Rivers Conference foe Maconaquah (Nov. 20).

Valley’s first home game will be against Goshen in the Lady Vikings’ annual Thanksgiving Classic.