Turlock Christian High’s girls basketball team has found itself in a unique position this season. After claiming the Southern Athletic League title, competing for the SJS Division V Championship, and advancing to the quarterfinals of the Northern California Playoff Tournament, the Eagles return to the court with both star player Halie Bergman and some new faces that are set to be the future of TC girls basketball.
“Her return is vital because we’re in development mode with a certain group of girls and she takes the pressure off of them by being able to penetrate and draw a lot of defenses,” TC’s head coach Edwin Santiago said of his three year varsity starter.
Freshman McCalister Russell and sophomore Victoria Vieira are TC’s new additions to the team, standing at 5-feet-9 and 5-feet-10 respectively. The two underclassmen are being groomed to dominate at the post and give Bergman support when needed. Russell isn’t the only Eagle freshman on the court this year, however, Cassie Balswick and Aimee Jones have been moved up to both complement TC’s experience and learn from the likes of Kate Farrar, Madison Beard, Arin Morelli, and Monique McMeechan.
“We’ve never had it where we’ve had two post players developing to be future significant contributors on the glass for both rebounding and scoring,” Santiago said of Russell and Vieira.
With the combination of pre-existing chemistry and malleable talent, TC is expecting a repeat of last year’s success. Important role players from last season are gone but the return of Bergman, who scored her 1,000th career point on Monday, has helped to lessen the load of expectation for her younger teammates and give the squad an air of confidence on the court.
The combination of Bergman’s ability to find the net, Ferrar’s speed, and the perimeter shooting of Beard, McMeechan, and Morelli have already lifted TC above stiff competition in the pre-season. Currently competing in the Big Valley Christian Tournament, the Eagles hope to forge their team identity in time to contend with SAL rivals Ripon Christian and Mariposa High.
“The expectations to win sections and league are the same but how we do it will be totally different,” Santiago said. “Our goal is to be ready and running with our new players by league.”