This year's Turlock Christian High varsity girls basketball team might be the most experienced squad that head coach Edwin Santiago has ever had.
Santiago returns a large number of his big-minute players who were in large part juniors just a year ago—nine to be exact.
Kaylene Baskin, Mikayla Yagi, Cassie Balswick, Meghan Mark, Aimee Jones, Brooke Rodrigues, McCalister Russell, Alexis Smith and Destiny Pereira are those nine who bring with them years of experience at the varsity level, including two back-to-back Section Championship appearances.
Filled with a roster full of experience, coach Santiago knows that age alone will not win them games so he decided to take a more laid back approach to the season, not pressuring any of her players to play basketball all year, but to take time doing other things and playing other sports.
“In the offseason a lot of the girls had a chance to do other things because last year we took it too serious and seemed to play uptight at times so I wanted the girls to not see any pressure this year,” said Santiago. “Instead of doing that, let's enjoy the season but we won't be worried about having to do this or that.”
Last year (2014-15) was a repeat of the 2013-14 season, a 20-10 year that ended with a seven-point loss at the hands of Valley Christian.
“We have learned from the experience and this year we will be mentally stronger and should be more prepared for those obstacles that might come,” said TC senior McCalister Russell. “We will learn from last season and be better this season.”
Easier said than done, but with an experienced coach and roster there is no question that the inner confidence is there for these girls and the school.
Since the 2008-09 season, the Eagles have won 20 or more games under the coaching of Santiago, making it seven consecutive years.
“I hope the girls find joy in this season. We want to enjoy the game by being open to the challenges presented as an opportunity to improve versus an obstacle to overcome,” said Santiago.
“We are going to work really hard and outrun our teams,” said Balswick. “They might be bigger than us but we will be faster and I think we will work well together because we have a great team chemistry and our biggest goal is go to Sections and not lose by seven points again.”
The first official preseason game is scheduled at home against Calaveras at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3.
“We know the competition is good out here so this year we are focused on our health and be ready as well as energetic for any obstacle that comes our way,” Santiago added. “Last year near the end we were exhausted and we want to change that so we will.”
“We all want to get more stats than last year all around, more rebounds, more points, more steals, less turnovers, so as a whole to improve from last year and progress as the season goes on,” Balswick added. “We want to peak at the very end, we want to be at the end in Sections — if we work hard to be better than we were before that should be our goal.”