It isn't often that a coach sees an opportunity for success out of a team that finished the previous season with a losing record. But if you ask Dayton girls basketball coach Shari Andreason what she expects out of her team, which returns nine players from last season's team, another losing season isn't in the conversation.
"I'm excited though, we have a very talented team," Andreason said. "I think we're finally at the point that we believe that we're good, even though last night (a loss to Carson on Wednesday) might not have shown it. But for the most part, I think, they're there mentally and I think that's a huge thing for girls. Just that competitve spirit, knowing like, 'It's OK we missed this shot, we'll get the next one.' "
Andreason said confidence, or rather lack of, was a huge reason for the Dust Devils subpar record. While game scores show blowout loses, such as, 49-16 to Yerington and 75-38 to Spring Creek, Andreason says game tempo was never indicative of what went on in practice.
"It was a confidence thing last year for us," Andreason said. "Just getting out there and not hanging our heads or like believing that they're good. I don't know what it was ...
"They've always been talented, but people just haven't seen it because they don't see what I see everyday in practice. If you could see us in practice you'd say, 'Now how did that happen in the game because that's such a different team.' But it's just that confidence getting out there and playing in front of other people and with another team."
So far though, the new-found confidence hasn't translated into wins. The Dust Devils opened the season with a 57-36 loss to Fallon and were drubbed by Carson 61-28. In fairness, the losses came without regular starters Matia Spencer (not enough practice time) and Kathy Arias (out of town).
"It's learning," Andreason said. "Like I told the girls, I'd rather have this game now than in league. That's what preseason's for.
"Of course, as a coach and as a competitor I hope to have a closer game than that and compete better. We didn't compete the whole game so that part, not being competitive is frustrating, but it's preseason."
But with every player back and accounted for, Dayton is looking to get back on track. Andreason said she sees an opportunity for the girls to show off some of that confidence Monday when they play at South Tahoe, a 4A team.
With nine returners and six seniors on the team, the Dust Devils are positioned to make a run at one of the top two playoff spots. They will be aided by their height with several players listed at 5-foot-10 or taller, including senior post player Rachel Monzello (6-1) and post player Taylor Hill (6-0).
The height advantage will surely help against teams like Yerington, who lost its two best post players in Karrie-Ann Quartz and Kayla Lommori.
Where the Dust Devils lack in the height, they make for in speed. Ariella Ruybal and Erika Garcia are both quick, slashing players.
"We have everything that any coach would want," Andreason said. "We have speed, we have great attitudes, we have athleticism, we're tall and we're extremely quick. So now it's my job to give us the right stuff to take advantage of it."
Where Dayton really suffered, though, last season was shooting. The blowout loses weren't because it didn't get good looks, but were due to missed shots - lots of them. This year, Andreason is working to push the tempo up and utilize the team's size and athleticism to get to the basket.
"We're hoping to defensively pressure, pressure, pressure, run, steals, transition," Andreason said. "So that is definitely what we're looking to do. With that said, we've had a handful of turnovers the last couple of games because it is a different style for us. Every missed basket we're trying to push it up, so getting in that habit is a different conditioning level and it's just a different look. But the girls are loving it; it's a fun style to play ... But that's what our goal is, make every team have to stop us."
Player Position Year
3 Ariella Rybal G Sr.
10 Erika Garcia G Jr.
11 Aundria Pluck G/P Sr.
14 Lindsie Cross G Sr.
20 Amber Brooks G Jr.
22 Kathie Arias G Jr.
23 Michaela Hoff G So.
24 Matia Spencer G Sr.
32 Brianna Cruz G/P So.
33 Taylor Hill G/P So.
40 Rachel Clark P Sr.
44 Rachel Monzello P Sr.