After winning four straight Foothill League titles, the Valencia Vikings girls basketball team is ready to defend its title once again.
With a record of 4-2, the Vikings are already off to a hot start and proving they may be up to the task.
Senior forward Kayla Konrad, last season’s All-Santa Clarita Valley Girls Basketball Player of the Year, will return to Valencia after committing to play basketball for UC Davis. The Vikings will carry four other seniors that Valencia hopes will lead an experienced squad to a fifth straight Foothill League title.
Last year Valencia went 22-5 overall and won the Foothill League with a perfect 10-0 record in league play. The team’s playoff run ended abruptly this February in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA basketball tournament when West High of Torrance upset the Vikings 43-41 at Valencia High.
“Because we got up, last year we kind of relaxed,” said senior forward Jade Jordan. “So we have to keep going as hard as possible until the end of the game every game.”
MORE: 2016-17 Valencia boys basketball preview
Konrad also sounded frustrated by last year’s ending, and she echoed Jordan’s statement that the team needs to play fundamental basketball to advance further in the playoffs.
“We like to push the ball and get easy shots,” Konrad said. “(On) defense we always work on being big and taking up space. That’s what we really want to do this year.”
Last season Konrad was by far the Vikings leading scorer, racking up 519 points in 27 games, an average of 19.2 points per game. She also led Valencia in rebounds with with 11.2 rebounds per game. Konrad also had 3.1 assists per game and and three steals per game in her junior season.
Kenadee Honaker, a senior this season, led Valencia in 3-pointers attempted with 139. She made 40 and shot 29 percent from behind the arc. Ashlee Ane, a senior forward this season, was the third leading scorer on the team with an average of 7.5 points per game.
Konrad said to prepare herself for UC Davis next year she’s trying to work on her perimeter shot, but is focused on trying to win another league title with the Vikings this season.
Over the past 10 seasons under coach Jerry Mike, Valencia is 212-88. During that time, Mike’s teams have gone 78-22 in Foothill League play during that time.
The last time a Valencia girls basketball team finished lower than third in the Foothill League was when Mike guided the 2005-2006 team to a 16-12 overall record, 4-6 league record and a fifth place finish in the Foothill League.
Over the past three years, all three of Valencia’s playoff losses have come by a combined six points; including a 61-58 double-overtime loss at Lynwood High School in the third round of the 2015 playoffs.
“We don’t catch anybody by surprise,” Mike said.
Valencia will carry five seniors, three juniors and two freshmen this season. Though the team has plenty of experience, Mike said freshman Skylar Ingram will be a key player for Valencia in the future.
“She’s learning, she’s going to get some time and see how it’s done,” Mike said of Ingram. “We decided to keep (Ingram and freshman Nicole Weatherman) with us instead of putting them on JV so they can see how we do things.”
Senior Bri Coleman hasn’t played basketball since before she began high school, Mike said. A 6-foot-1 volleyball player, Mike is excited about her presence on the team.
“I wish she would’ve done it a year or two before because she definitely has a lot of athletic skills and she picks up on things fast,” Mike said. “She’s just an athlete. If you’re good in one sport you know what it takes.”
Valencia is 4-2 this season through six games and has wins against Agoura High School, Bishop Alemany High, Palisades High and Ayala High.
Ane, Jordan and Konrad thought the early part of the season has gone well, but the Vikings need to keep improving.
“We’re just trying to get back into our flow,” Ane said. “Every game we’re fighting a little bit more.