Vikings feel it’s their time
When Alexis Holmes, Alexis Nunes-Fenley and Cassandra Diaz joined the South Tahoe High girls’ basketball program as freshmen, few doubted that they’d get to the postseason at some point.
Four years into their Vikings’ basketball careers, the seniors are still in search of a postseason appearance. An end-of-the-season slump ruined a serious run at the playoffs when they were sophomores, and last year the team was besieged by injuries.
With a final shot to make the regional tournament, they like their chances.
“Our core has been playing together since the seventh grade, so now we’re all together. It only took seven years, but better late than never,” Nunes-Fenley said.
Since South Tahoe hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 1996, the Vikings also are inspired to accomplish something no female basketball players in the past decade have experienced coming through the program.
“We’re just gonna make it,” Holmes said. “I think we have a really deep team this year. Our practices have been more competitive than they have been.”
Sixth-year coach Chris Holmes is making sure his team is more than ready for the long road ahead to the playoffs. Players noticed a change in the practice routine on the first day.
“The first day of tryouts we knew things were going to be different because we ran,” Nunes-Fenley said. “No offense to coach, love you, but we normally don’t ever run that much, and you could tell he was going to kick our butts and whip us into shape.”
In all, the Vikings welcome back four starters from last year’s injury-riddled team that won three Sierra Division games. Terra Backinger, a senior, asserted herself in her first varsity season and is being counted on to play the point. The versatile Holmes can play any position but center, Diaz can play either position in the backcourt and Nunes-Fenley is a low-post veteran who can step out and hit an outside shot. Senior twin sisters Tori and Jennifer Lenstrom and sophomore Alex Reber give the Vikings’ inside depth that they haven’t had in past years.
“We’re all a little bit closer, and we have a starting five who has actually been playing for a while, so we all have good chemistry with each other,” Diaz said.
As a result, the players know their roles and aren’t inclined to try something outside of their capabilities.
“A lot of girls know what their roles are and what they are doing,” coach Holmes said. “You don’t always get players understanding what they are supposed to do: Girls who know that ‘I should be screening,’ or ‘I’m a good shooter and I’ll shoot this shot, but I won’t shoot that shot.'”
New additions to varsity who will provide depth and contribute immediately are junior Ellen Dupree, who is pleasing Holmes with her rebounding in practice, and slick ballhandler Mel Sabac.
Diaz played a key role in helping the Vikings’ soccer team reach the regional finals and state semifinals. She knows how special seasons are created.
“I just want to make the best of it,” she said. “We just have to keep working hard at practice. That’s where it’s gonna start. As long as everyone is into it and puts out their best effort, that’s all you really need to be great.”
Coach Holmes casts Galena as the league favorite, and Bishop Manogue as second-best in the Sierra Division. “After that, it’s pretty wide open. We just want to try and win the games we’re supposed to win,” he said.
The Vikings are dedicated toward being one of eight schools still playing in mid-February. History isn’t on their side, but experience, chemistry and passion for the game are.
“We want to be in the playoffs, absolutely,” said coach Holmes. “This group has played together a long time, and all of the pieces are there. We’re deeper this year than we’ve ever been. As long as we don’t get injuries, I think we’re gonna be pretty good.”
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.