Bears hope to make impact in tough MLL

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat November 21, 2012 12:38 am

After two seasons under head coach David Woods, the Summerville girls’ varsity basketball team feels like it has the personnel and experience to make an impact on the Mother Lode League this year.

The Bears’ 2012-13 squad comprised of five seniors and six juniors, some who have been playing on varsity since they were freshmen, is a first for a team that has lacked experience in recent years.

“This is my third year coaching and the first that we’ve had all returning players,” said Woods. “With the experience we’re hoping to improve over what we did the past couple of seasons. We’ve been young in the past, but we don’t have that excuse anymore.”

Summerville won three games during the 2010-11 season and six games last year. Woods said the team has set a goal of 12 wins this season to once again double their previous win total.

“We finally have the numbers, we’re starting to build and the program’s getting better,” he said. 

Woods knows the girls well — he’s been coaching them since they were freshmen and sophomores. He said defense will be a top priority this year given the strengths of the players.

“This year we’re going to try and play some really good defense because we’re not always going to score a lot of points,” he said. “We don’t have a girl who we can rely on giving us 20 points each night, so we also need to spread out the scoring responsibilities. That’s going to be the formula for the games that we win.”

However, Woods noted that the journey won’t be an easy one as the competition in the MLL has been tough for years. 

The Calaveras Redskins won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title and advanced to the state championships a year ago, where they lost in the third round. The MLL has sent four teams to the playoffs in the past five seasons and has been represented in the last three section championship games at Power Balance Pavilion.

According to Woods, who also serves as the Sac-Joaquin Section representative, MLL teams were 22-4 in the preseason last year against Division I and II teams, which is the best non-conference record of any league in the section.

“It’s tough top to bottom,” Woods said of the MLL. “You never have a game off, there are no weak spots and everybody’s good. This isn’t just a tough league, I would say it’s the toughest small school league in Northern California.”

Bear seniors, like point guard Krysta Calkins, seem up for the challenge.

“I haven’t heard much about the other teams this year but we have a very strong league,” she said. “Of course it’s going to be challenging, but we’re going to be playing our hearts out because that’s what we do.”

Summerville senior Ashley Gamber said, “All of the seniors have been on varsity for at least three years, so we all know the other teams pretty well and I think that’s going to give us a big advantage.”

The Bears, who begin their season at the Hughson Tournament on Nov. 29, will also have to draw on the team chemistry they’ve gained through years of playing together to compete against some of the league’s more powerful teams, said senior Bella Bachtelle.

“I think the keys are for us to score together, work hard and never get discouraged or give up,” she said. “We know that the other teams are really good, we just have to go out there and give everything we have.”