He admits the big losses are disturbing, but Oakdale High girls varsity basketball coach, Gary Smith, knows his injury ravaged program hasn’t folded yet.
“It would be easy to throw in the towel and not work in hard in practice, but what has impressed me is their desire to keep playing hard,” Smith said. “The bottom line is we have not given up.”
Oakdale, which lost starters Cassandra Clark and Ashley Edwards for the season and still competes without Naydee Fernandez (re-injury) and Kelsey Clark, slipped to a 71-21 loss to Manteca and a 63-17 loss to Sonora in recent play.
Blanca Lara and Gabby Acosta scored six points each on Manteca, while Lara (eight) and Andreina Rodriguez (five) found the net against Sonora.
The three have joined an unexpected collection of starters to put up valiant efforts despite extremely difficult opposition in one of the toughest girls basketball leagues in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
And the injuries haven’t just depleted the varsity team. With so many vacancies, Smith was forced to call up Acosta and Micah Barton from the junior varsity team. Their holes at the sophomore level were filled by freshmen Hanna Holland and Summer Anderson.
Consider that Oakdale also started the 2010-2011 season without last year’s starting center, Domi Powell, (playing club volleyball instead), and it’s been a year of missing pieces, program wide.
Oakdale’s varsity team broke even with a 5-5 preseason despite the first barrage of injuries (Fernandez, Edwards, Kelsey Clark), but are now 6-9 overall after a 1-5 run through the first half of Valley Oak League games.
The JV team is also 1-5 in league play, and has struggled to beat the press with new faces running the ball up court.
The JV girls lost a 37-35 heartbreaker to Manteca in overtime on Jan. 18, despite a heroic three-point shot from Anderson as time expired to force additional minutes. In overtime, three Oakdale starters who had fouled out were forced to watch from the bench as Manteca nabbed a late two-point lead.
Francesca Orvis scored 13 points with seven steals and five rebounds in the loss, playing every second in five periods play.
She added six points with six rebounds and two steals in a 39-20 loss to Sonora (5-1) on Jan. 20. Oakdale missed seven costly lay-ups and couldn’t keep Sonora in reach despite some even exchanges. Kylie Gust landed five points and a lone three-pointer in the loss.
“The focus is always trying to improve, and after losing Micah and Gabby we are still working on getting that chemistry back,” Oakdale JV coach Heather Brown said. “We have been struggling, but not getting blown out.”
Oakdale hosted Lathrop on Tuesday, though results were not available at press time. The Lady Mustangs are at Kimball on Thursday, Jan. 27.