Vikings girls enter season with better mindset, postseason aspirations
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — There was much emotion Tuesday from the Lady Vikings’ at basketball practice.
They were pumping up and pushing each other and every drill finished with some kind of loud cheer.
“We have a lot better mindset coming in this year,” said senior Hailey Naccarato. “Last year a bunch of us were super negative from the start not thinking we would get anywhere. This year we are all working together because we’ve grown up playing with each other. We’re more cohesive as a team.”
Most on the girls played together during the summer during a 19-game season and have bonded through time together and special exercises, like the one before Tuesday’s practice.
“We had a little team bonding before practice that has got us fired up,” said senior Teagan Williamson. “We’ve been making goals for each practice and I think it will help us get better. We’re a different group than last year. I’m really excited for this season, we’re working really hard.”
The Vikings are working hard to erase the disappointment of last season where they won just four games after making the playoffs the season before.
South Tahoe head coach Michael Neiger said it just left a bad taste in everybody’s mouths and he’s excited to improve on last year.
His daughter, senior Malorie Neiger, missed a lot of last season with an injury and she’s ready to move forward and finish her hoops career on a better note.
“We want to go out this year like we own the court,” Malorie Neiger said. “Last year we seemed a little scared and that was a wake up call for us. This year we’re a little more confident. We’re a lot better than last year, a lot more motivation and potential.”
Coach Neiger said his team will be led his seniors, notably Naccarato, Neiger, Williamson, Layne Hembree and Kaitlyn Janese, and will likely alternate captains.
“I am excited to watch Kaitlyn play,” Williamson said. “She’s improved so much I can’t wait to see her post up and dominate down low.”
“I’m excited to see Hailey play,” Malorie Neiger said. “She’s really good and has gotten a lot better. She makes a difference on this team.”
“I’m excited to see everybody because we’re all putting in the same effort,” Naccarato said. “We have the same goal. We all want to reach our goals and all of us are putting in the work.”
The main goal is to get back into postseason, especially for the team’s eight seniors. They need to be one of the top six teams in the 3A Northern League to accomplish their goal.
Last season the Vikings were seventh out of nine teams and two games out of the last playoff qualifying position.
“Our goal is playoffs and I don’t think anyone of these 13 girls would disagree,” coach Neiger said. “Last year we did not make it and just being competitors, we want to make the playoffs, make the tournament and go from there.”
The coach says usual suspects of Churchill County, Lowry, Elko, Spring Creek and Fernley will be tough challenges just like normal and he’d like his girls to be thrown into that mix.
“As long as we’re in the playoffs, that means we’re battling with those teams,” coach Neiger said.
“Win. We want to win and be a better group with more cohesion throughout the group,” Williamson said. “We want to have a good time with each other and definitely want to get to the playoffs, that’s our main goal. We’re taking it one step at a time — focus on cohesion, winning and then playoffs.”