Freshman Yasmin Gupta takes a shot at the Jan. 8 league game at Sleep Train Arena. The girls lost 25-66 against Valley Christian.

Coach predicts success for girls’ team with experienced leaders supporting newbies

With a wide range of experience on the girls’ basketball team, the Cavs are expecting to beat the majority of the teams in their division, who are less experienced and younger.

Because the majority of last year’s winning league teams lost their strong senior players, coach Matt Vargo said that there is “a very bright future for the Cavs.”

The leaders of the team—including seniors Micaela Bennett-Smith and Isabella Tochterman, junior Julia Owaidat, sophomore Natalie Brown and freshmen Yasmin Gupta and Annya and Katia Dahmani—are another reason why Vargo anticipates the Cavs’ success.

“(The leaders) have really stepped it up and have been extremely supportive of the other girls,” Vargo said.

The Cavs also have a large advantage when it comes to their senior players.

Tochterman is a two-time all-league player, and Bennett-Smith has the Cavs’ “strongest defensive presence on the court,” Vargo said.

The other leaders also have ample experience.

Gupta has trained with coach David Ancrum for a year and a half and has practiced with the San Juan High School girls’ basketball coach for the past three months; both Dahmanis have played on the SCDS teams for the past four years; Owaidat has played for a total of six years, including one year of competitive basketball that was coached by previous varsity basketball coach Alisha Harris; and Brown has played two years for SCDS.

This experience is evident in the number of points the leaders have scored—Tochterman with 78, Owaidat with 67 and Gupta with 48.

All of these assets have resulted in an overall record of 4-4.

One of the girls’ strongest games was a preseason match against Delta High School, Dec. 4, according to Owaidat.

Although the Cavs lost 32-34, the teams fought extremely hard because they were so evenly matched.

The match’s intensity led to three players—Bennett-Smith, Owaidat and Brown—fouling out in the final minute.

“Although it sounds cheesy, we had such amazing heart (that night),” Owaidat said.

“All of my girls were aggressive. Usually when I yell during games, I’m the only one yelling, but (that game), they were all just as pumped as I was.”

The Cavs’ first league game was against Stone Ridge Christian, Jan. 3. The Cavs lost, 17-29.

However, this was an unusual performance for the Cavs, with a score 21 points less than average.

“Our main problem was that we were really out of shape after Winter Break,” Bennett-Smith said.

Vargo attributes some of the Cavs’ preseason losses to scheduling problems.

For instance, in the game against Delta, Tochterman, Gupta and the Dahmanis were missing, resulting in the Cavs having only three substitutes.

Had another player fouled out, the girls would have had only four players on the court.

The girls’ next game is tonight at 7 p.m. against Wilton Christian at the Galt Small Gym in Wilton.

Their next home game is at 6 p.m. against Faith Christian on Friday, Jan. 16.

Previously published in the print edition on Jan. 13, 2015.

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