BURLESON — Under new leadership in head coach Olivia Pyburn, the Burleson Lady Elks are looking to get back to being a perennial playoff contender.

Pyburn takes the reins of the Lady Elk basketball program after four years as head coach at Odessa High, where she led her team to a 19-15 record and a bi-district title a year ago.

Meanwhile, Burleson hasn’t reached the postseason since 2015. The Lady Elks haven’t even finished above .500 since the 2014-15 season when they were district champs.

The Burleson head girls basketball coach position is one Pyburn has had an eye on for a while.

“I’ve always been very familiar with the area,” Pyburn said. “I coached in Crowley for five years and Burleson was pretty much in my back yard. My good friend D’Anna Newton [Burleson volleyball coach and girls coordinator], we played together at Tarleton State and we’ve remained in contact through the years. I actually interviewed for this job when I was at Crowley but I didn’t have any head coaching experience at the time, but I was grateful to get that opportunity to interview. 

“So I got some head coaching experience in Odessa and when the Burleson job came back open it felt like a great opportunity for me. Burleson is a great community. I feel like it’s the perfect place for me to be right now.”

The Lady Elks return six lettermen off last year’s team that won only two district games. Two of those six returners are returning starters in sophomore forward Trinitee Johnson and senior guard Rylee Moseley.

“Rylee is one of our captains this year and she’s going to take over more of a leadership role,” Pyburn said. “With her leadership skills on and off the court, I expect Rylee to be a leader for us. Her basketball IQ is tremendous crazy. She’s going to be a very good point guard for us. Trinitee is still young but she’s an impact player. When she’s on, it’s very scary to be the opponent.

“Everybody this year has brought something to the table and everyone is taking on their role. All of the pieces of the puzzle are fitting and we’re getting better each day.”

In addition to the six returners, Pyburn expects newcomers such as freshman guard Avery Lyday, sophomore guard Brianna Trevino and sophomore forward Alyssa Davault to play roles for Burleson.

“Our biggest strength is taking pride in being a strong defensive team,” Pyburn said. “We also have depth in each position that will carry us throughout the season. Areas of key factors will be staying healthy and staying true to what we do.”

Pyburn said coaching this group in their first year together is made a little easier because of the players’ desire to get better.

“They’re very coachable kids,” Pyburn said. “They’ve adapted to change and a different system. The one thing that makes it easy is they’re hungry to be successful. So they’re bought in. If they stay consistent, we’ll be fine. We’ve had two scrimmages and from the first one to the last one, it was a tremendous jump in improvement so I feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”

While Pyburn said they’ll maintain a nearsighted approach throughout the season, they do have their sights set on returning to the playoffs.

“We have expectations to break the drought of not reaching the playoffs,” she said. “We will take it one day at a time and one game at a time; never look ahead but be in the moment.”

The Lady Elks open the season at 8 p.m. Friday against Keller Fossil Ridge.

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