Turlock Christian graduated nine seniors from last year’s varsity girls basketball team and for the first time in his coaching career, head coach Edwin Santiago has a team who has very little to no varsity experience heading into the 2016-17 season.
“I've never had nine seniors before graduate from my program,” said Santiago. “We are young ,so we have a lot of opportunity for growth. Our expectations are not necessarily as high, but it doesn't mean we won't compete and nobody is putting pressure on us to perform at that level yet so we will get there.”
For the first time in over a dozen years the Eagles are heading into preseason with the most inexperienced squad to-date. Preseason standings don't swing in their favor, but they are fine with that.
“We are going to give it our best shot. It’s nice playing without the expectations, a lot more fun this way... less pressure,” said Santiago heading into the new year.
However, if there is one thing that coach Santiago is used to it's building a winning program. Humbly and confidently, he has done that.
Since 2007-08 when coach Santiago took over the helm, his Eagles squad has made the playoffs every year heading into this season.
“The satisfaction was never the wins it was the ability to sustain the effort and competitiveness throughout the games,” said Santiago. “To be able to deal with the next play meaning you make it up on the next play but the results are not why we compete, we compete trying to get better from the last time we played and it’s already begun.”
Things look slow but steady for this year’s team so far heading into the stretch of November with a flock of fresh faces who the Eagles have assembled.
“We are trying to improve on what we've done the last practice and doing more chemistry wise and just building on that,” said Santiago about his team’s current progress.
Under Santiago, the Eagles have won 18 games or more since 2007 and 20-plus wins per season in the last eight consecutive seasons, including three straight Division VI Sac-Joaquin Section Championship appearances.
It will be hard to repeat last season's 21-10 team, but this year’s squad will definitely progress as the year carries along.
“Our juniors are going to grow, Cameron Swanson is our post player and she is ready to step it up,” said Santiago. “Our hope is to be competitive and grow in our competitiveness and have fun cause there is no pressure on us to beat the record from last year or anything like that.”
The Eagles will take on the Denair Coyotes at 6 p.m. Tuesday.