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The Verde Valley School girls basketball program held a meeting a few weeks ago before the season began to see who would be interested in playing for the 1A conference school. Head coach Catrien Van Assenbelft was astonished by what happened next.

Twenty-three players showed up at the meeting, a record turnout for the Coyotes to begin a season. Van Assenbelft’s concerns of possibly not having enough kids quickly changed to, “What am I going to do with them all?”

When practice officially began for the girls team on Monday, Dec. 1, almost a month after most high schools begin, 14 to 17 players showed up to practice ready and willing to learn.

By Brian Bergner Jr.

Larson Newspapers

The Verde Valley School girls basketball program held a meeting a few weeks ago before the season began to see who would be interested in playing for the 1A conference school. Head coach Catrien Van Assenbelft was astonished by what happened next.

Twenty-three players showed up at the meeting, a record turnout for the Coyotes to begin a season. Van Assenbelft’s concerns of possibly not having enough kids quickly changed to, “What am I going to do with them all?”

When practice officially began for the girls team on Monday, Dec. 1, almost a month after most high schools begin, 14 to 17 players showed up to practice ready and willing to learn.

“We may not have 23 players out here right now, but those who showed up today are ready to go,” Van Assenbelft said.

The game of basketball can be both physically and technically difficult for a young person, but it may be even more difficult when a player attends a school with only 120 kids enrolled, not to mention there is no gymnasium to practice in on campus.

Yes, that’s right, no gym.

Almost all high schools have a gymnasium ... maybe even two, but Verde Valley does not.

So how does this work?

Well, players practice on the outside courts on campus when weather permits, and the Coyotes have worked out a deal to play at Big Park Community School for all of their home games.

“It’s not so bad except when it gets really cold out. There are cracks in the ground and leaves to avoid but it’s all worth it to play ball,” junior forward Karel Hines said after practice on Monday.

Hines, entering her second season with the Coyotes, is one of seven top returners for Verde Valley this season.

Van Assenbelft, entering her first season at the helm for the Coyotes, believes her players have two things they can focus on to be successful, even if it doesn’t amount to victories on the court.

“The first goal would be for the girls to keep their heads in the game and stay focused and the second would be to play with intensity ... hard, fast and smart,” Van Assenbelft said.

Along with the coach’s goals for this season, 15-year-old sophomore guard Gema Fidalgo believes it’s also important to become a family.

“Basketball is fun and we have a lot of spirit on this team. We need to become a family and that should be easy since we all care about each other,” Fidalgo said.

Many of the girls play other varsity sports so this group has been together for a while.

Fidalgo was a big part of the Coyotes’ team last season and hopes to do the same for the 2008-2009 campaign.

Also returning is sophomore guard Brianna Gonzalez who is entering her second year at the varsity level for the Coyotes.

Gonzalez should be one of the main players in the rotation for Van Assenbelft.

“We’re looking forward to the season,” Gonzalez said.

As for the schedule, the girls have 11 games, starting with a road trip to Surrey Garden High on Tuesday, Dec. 9, to open the season.

Surrey Garden was the 1A-West region champion last season and lost in the second round of the 1A state tournament to Rock Point High in overtime, 65-62.

The Coyotes will remain on the road during their next three games against Phoenix Day School on Thursday, Dec. 11, San Pasqual High on Saturday, Dec. 13, and Tempe Preparatory High on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

The first home game for Verde Valley this season will be Thursday, Jan. 15, against Valley Lutheran Academy.

Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Other home games for the Coyotes will be Friday, Jan. 16, against Salt River High and Saturday, Jan. 24, against Mayer High.

“We have a few challenges ahead of us, but we are all excited about getting the chance to play,” Van Assenbelft said.

 

Brian Bergner Jr. can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 131, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


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