West Ranch is familiar with being the youngest team in the Foothill League.
Last season, the Wildcats (4-5 overall) only had two seniors on the roster. This year, they have five. The age of the team has certainly been altered, but so had the maturity.
“We’re much more poised than we were last year,” said coach Carlos Fandino. “We’re able to execute a lot better than we were able to a year ago. They’ve been in the system for a year now and they’re understanding their responsibilities.”
Fandino’s system involves full-court pressure as a means of limiting the team. That also means that it involves a lot of stamina and well-prepared players.
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“(I play) a lot of these girls that are sitting on the bench, because if you run it correctly, you can’t run it two to three minutes without getting extremely tired.”
Guards Eleanor McQuillen (junior), Katie Joiner (senior) and Aalyiah Austin (junior) are three returners Fandino will be counting on to lead this year’s hard-working group.
McQuillen provides most of the Cats’ scoring power and has plenty of teammates who can get her the ball. Joiner plays a similar role but is utilized on defense more frequently.
Austin, a junior, is a fantastic shooter and can support the defense, too. Fandino cited her as one of the most important players on the team.
Two freshmen – Abbey Ang and Jade Sanchez – also arrived and have already made an impact.
“Abbey brings a grit … to our system,” Fandino said. “She’s a good shooter and she wants to handle the pressure. Obviously she’s young but she brings stability to our ball handling.”
Sanchez complements Ang with her rebounding abilities, even though she’s only been playing basketball for about three years.
Fandino’s goal for his team is a playoff appearance – something that hasn’t happened since the 2015-16 season.
“It’s all about the dedication that these girls are willing to put in and put in the hard work,” he said. “And go out there and give it 100 percent.”