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Annie Noah takes the lane during a winter 2021 game.

The Springfield Pro-Am League officially started on Tuesday. While the College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats didn’t play opening night, they will play through the rest of the league.

The local Pro-Am League is being held at Strafford Sports Center for the first time. It was originally scheduled to happen last year but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, it was held at The Courts, a facility in north Springfield which closed its doors in 2018.

C of O is one of many area colleges competing in the tournament. Drury University has two women’s teams registered; Crowder College and Missouri Southern State University also have teams. There are also local colleges represented on the men’s side.

The Lady Bobcats competed when the league was held at The Courts. Head coach Becky Mullis said having the chance to play again in the summer is very beneficial for her team, especially this year.

The Lady Bobcats did not start their winter season until Feb. 2 of this year and played only 10 games. There was little time for practice before games began and the season was over in a month and a half.

“We never really got the chance to bond,” Mullis said. “This summer will be more beneficial than others. We’ll get to play in front of fans again, and it will be a good experience especially for our younger players.”

Games are held on Tuesdays and Sundays, starting June 8 through July 11. Tickets are $5 at the gate for spectators.

“It’s a great way to prepare for the season, but it also allows athletes to get to know each other,” Courtney Donohue, head official for the complex, said in a release announcing the start of the league. “You have incoming players — incoming freshmen — and this is a great way for them to get to know the rest of the team and for the team to build camaraderie.”

Donohue has been a women’s college referee for six years and a high school referee for 16. She worked as an official at The Courts for 11 years and said bringing the league to Stafford Sports Center is a great way to grow the league.

“We’re really still developing this region’s league,” Donohue said in the release. “Aside from working with schools, coaches, parents and players — we’re wanting to work with those businesses and organizations who want to support these teams and these future leaders in the game. We would love to see some sponsorships develop for sure.”

C of O starts its season on Sunday, June 13, with a doubleheader. They will face Crowder College at 4 p.m. and the Lady Patriots at 5 p.m.

For full schedules and court locations, visit straffordsportscenter.com.

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