Focusing on the same goal throughout the season, the Riverbank girls varsity basketball team won the 2014-2015 Trans-Valley League championship, losing only one game during the TVL campaign. The varsity team ended their season with a record of 15-12 overall and 9-1 in league and represented Riverbank in the Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs.
Team members Aztrid Meza, Olivia Luu, Melissa Romero, Lilly Garcia, Yulisa Olivares, Daisy Nunez, Patty Elizondo, Karina Cajero, Alejandra Villagomez, Sierra Nabors, Jennifer Verdin, Mikala Stewart and Ashley Genasci, along with Head Coach Lupe Galindo and Assistant Coach Aimee Felix, were feted recently at a school board meeting for their accomplishment.
Galindo put the buzz in the team’s ear last spring of winning league, a feat which had not been achieved at Riverbank High School (RHS) since 1984. With the common goal of bringing a TVL championship to RHS after 31 years being instilled in the minds of everyone on the team, it was a recipe for success along with hard work during the summer and preseason campaign.
“It is one of those (situations) where it actually worked and paid off,” explained Galindo. “I think they care about each other too and that is really helpful.”
The Lady Bruins had a tough preseason with several players having injuries and illnesses which led players to filling in at positions that they wouldn’t normally have played. The girls were very committed to the common goal, said Galindo, so they worked hard in tournaments, scrimmages, and even put in their own time when there wasn’t anything on the schedule.
“We challenged ourselves and played some schools that were bigger and had a better season than we did last year,” said Galindo. “We didn’t foresee as far as preseason all the adversity we had with injuries and illnesses.”
By the time they reached league play in January the team finally came together. Some of the girls were asked to play that weren’t expecting to and they played with a lot of heart.
“Every league game was tough; I think we had three overtime games and probably of our whole schedule, we had 15 games within 10 points and nine of them were within five points,” expressed Galindo. “We battled. We had a lot of close games and we only lost one of those in league so it showed their toughness.”
The entire league schedule was tough, with a lot of parity between teams. All games the Lady Bruins faced in their league was a pretty even match, Galindo explained, and all were close with no blowouts.
“It is nice when everybody can encourage each other, and help each other and pick each other up when we are down,” added Galindo. “And we had some pretty bad games, it wasn’t all great.
“We had some bad games and the support that we had within ourselves was tremendous and it was key.”
The team started out not having very many fans in the stands but as the season continued and the girls kept up the winning ways, more fans and community members attended the games to support the team.
“That (community support) is very helpful and very appreciated,” said Galindo. “We didn’t have a big group but the group we did have was very supportive and very vocal.”
Some of the players that made an impact were Olivia Luu, who was named MVP of the league and was a leader on the court.
“She made everybody play better,” added Galindo. “Sierra Nabors a junior, she was a big key because she took pressure off of Olivia.”
Also getting high marks was point guard Daisy Nunez.
“She didn’t get a lot of stats but she did a lot of the things that, if it wasn’t for her, the other players would not have been able to play their other positions,” noted Galindo.
Luu was not only MVP but also recognized with an Athlete of the Week selection recently by The News. Her position was a guard but she played everywhere and anywhere, her coach said.
“It was like the icing on the cake you know, for senior year, to go out league champions and then MVP of the league through all these years and all the hard work I put in,” stated Luu. “And for the program, the Riverbank girls basketball to finish this way, is amazing.”
As a senior, Luu will be furthering her education at a four-year school with a major in molecular biology and hopes to continue playing basketball.
With the team being senior heavy this year with several of them starting and graduating this year, Coach Galindo is still very optimistic about next year. He explained that several of the juniors on the team understand the commitment and will be examples to the new underclassmen that will be joining them next year.
“Our goal now is to defend the title,” stated Galindo. “I think we have a good core of juniors that are going to help accomplish that.”
Galindo teaches Spanish at Riverbank High School, was the freshman girls basketball coach for two years, and last year began coaching varsity girls. He has been coaching on and off for 18 years but has been at Riverbank for the past four years.
Bringing the school a league title after so long, Galindo said, felt really good but he found it to be bigger than just a championship. He explained to the girls that it was about the community, about RHS and its history. That one day they would come back to RHS and see that banner hanging up there knowing that they were the ones that brought that crown to Bruin territory.
“They could hold their heads up high and they should be very proud,” said Galindo. “It is a big accomplishment.
“I hope they (fans) come out and watch us next year and continue to support these girls, they deserve it.”