On paper, the Davis High girls basketball team looks young.
But on the court, the Lady Blue Devils are a talented, experienced group that plays far beyond its years.
In 2013-14, DHS will look to defend its Delta Valley Conference title and build off of its Sac-Joaquin Section second-round playoff appearance from a year ago.
With the lofty goals in mind, Devil third-year head coach Karen Foster has liked what she has seen from her team so far:
“The team is looking real good. Everyone is working hard,” she said. “Overall, I feel our team of 12 players is solid and we should hold our own and compete in every game.”
When the season begins — with a CIF Foundation Game on Monday at Vacaville (6 p.m.) — the locals likely will field a starting lineup that doesn’t include a senior: Emma Stenz, Caitlin Mazzoleni, Rachel Allison, Anna Belenis and Katie Grahn. Though they are young, each player made heavy contributions to last year’s playoff run.
“The returning five have been playing together for several years now so they are in sync with each other,” Foster said. “All five have been working on self-improvement and they look good. Rachael Allison and Emma Stenz are our captains this season and the leadership from all five is evident at each practice.”
Juniors Stenz (6-foot) and Mazzoleni (5-11) are getting ready for their third varsity season, and will work together to give the Lady Blue Devils a strong inside presence. They also will be tasked with replacing the scoring and rebounding of four-year DHS standout Ashleigh Vandenbrink, now at Oregon Tech.
Last season, when the Devils finished 23-5 and 9-1 in the DVC, Stenz was the team’s second-leading scorer at 10.1 points per game and shot an impressive 51 percent from the floor. She also grabbed seven rebounds per outing.
Mazzoleni averaged 6.4 ppg on 38 percent shooting last season.
“(Replacing) Vandenbrink will be a team effort. I don’t think it will be just one player, it will be all five filling Ashleigh’s shoes,” Foster said. “We have talked about this all offseason.”
According to Foster, Allison and Belenis — both just sophomores — have been working on their jump shots, which will take the pressure off of Stenz and Mazzoleni to do all the scoring.
Belenis dished out 101 assists last season, and she will be in charge of running the offense for the second consecutive year. Allison averaged 4.2 ppg last season but showed flashes of brilliance that indicate that number should go up in 2013-14.
And Foster also expects two other sophomores — Kelly Goedde-Matthews and Sophie Seng — to be major contributors this season coming off of strong JV campaigns:
“Kelly is a point guard and she will help at the one, two and three positions and Sophie is a 6-footer and will help at the three, four and five,” Foster said. “Both players have improved greatly over the summer and fall and I am really looking for them to help out.”
Foster also noted juniors Alaina King, Sarah Bloise and Jamie Bautista as sparks off of the bench. Ariane Rusanganwa and La’Rell Cato also could contribute.
Put it all together, and Foster thinks the Lady Blue Devils are ready to try to replicate last season’s success.
“My players have been working hard on their game all offseason,” Foster said. “They are determined to get deep into the playoffs again this season. I believe they can do it. All these girls are poised and know what is needed to play this game that they love so much.”
Notes: Davis beat Napa in the first round of last year’s playoffs before dropping a quarterfinal game at Kennedy. … After the Foundation Game, the Devils host the Dorothy Speck Tournament from Thursday, Dec. 5, through Saturday Dec. 7. Game times will be announced. … Foster was the DVC Coach of the Year last season, while Stenz and Belenis received all-league first team accolades. Grahn earned honorable mention. Last year’s conference Player of the Year, Vandenbrink, has played seven games — starting four — and is averaging 8.7 ppg for Oregon Tech this winter.
— Reach Thomas Oide at email@example.com