The 2015-16 Yosemite Badgers girls basketball team returns two starters from last year’s 19-10 North Sequoia League co-champions.
The league title was the 12th shared or outright championship in varsity coach Gary Blate’s 13 seasons at the head of the girls program. During that run more than 20 players have gone on to play at the next level that number increasing by two as 2015 graduate Mattaya Brown and 2014 former Badger Kaley Mumm are both playing at Reedley College this season.
The tradition of success is a heavy burden for the relatively young team. The top three scorers from last season graduated. In addition to Mattaya Brown, 6-foot-3 Taylor Burrell went to Reedley College and played volleyball this season and three-year starting forward Veronica Miller is redshirting at UC Santa Cruz after suffering a knee injury during practice for the City-County All-Star game. Brown and Burrell were also selected to the All-Star team.
The returning starters this season are both seniors, 5-foot-9 shooting guard Allie Stearns, and 5-foot-8 forward Ashlee Harrell. Both are lefties, like to run the floor and can score in bunches.
Another 5-foot-9 senior, Jessica Fine, will start at the point guard position after playing forward for two varsity seasons. She is a good outside shooter and also likes an uptempo game.
Two additional 5-foot-6 seniors, Lynette Combs and Tracy Robesky, return for a second varsity season and will compete for playing time. At the forward spots, two juniors, point guard 5-foot-5 Carly Baldwin, and 5-foot-7 shooter Katie Long were the leading scorers on last year’s JV team and should be key contributors this season.
Two sophomore varsity newcomers will play at center - 5-foot-10 Sienna Oswald, and 5-foot-9 Allison Bernard. Joining them at the post positions will be two freshman - 5-foot-10 Hailey Rich, and 5-foot-9 Sophie McGoldrick.
Two other freshman players will help in the backcourt - 5-foot-4 Lilly Griffigna, and 5-foot-6 Grace Fries.
The 13-player varsity roster might not have a lot of notoriety coming into the season but Blate’s practices will be competitive which should translate into success during the season.
“Our depth should allow us to push the fast break and pressure on defense,” Blate said. “This should be an exciting team to watch and reminiscent of some of our past teams.”
The schedule starts with a multi-school scrimmage at Yosemite this Saturday with the varsity beginning at noon, and JV teams starting play at 9 a.m. On Tuesday, Dec. 1, the Badgers travel to Clovis for a game then take part in tournaments at Elk Grove, Hoover High, Del Oro, and Henderson, Nev.
The team’s first home game is not until Friday, Jan. 15, against league rival Sierra High School. The Badgers and the Chieftains have shared in two league championships in the past four seasons, with each winning a title outright during that time.
The past two seasons the Badgers have made it to the playoff semi-finals, only to lose on the road in Bakersfield to the No. 1 seeds and eventual D-II champions.
“This season the plan is to be competitive against good teams, earn a higher seed in the playoffs, and return to the Selland Arena for the Central Section Championship game.