Oakdale High’s varsity girls basketball team had better sharpen their weapons in 2012, because every Valley Oak League contest is bound to be a battle.
The team got their first glimpse of conference competition during one-sided losses to Kimball (1-1) and Weston Ranch (1-1) on Jan. 4 and 6. And with 2-0 Manteca (13-1 overall), 2-0 East Union (12-2) and 2-0 Sonora (10-3) still looming in the league lineup, things won’t get much easier.
Lathrop (0-2, 3-10) and Sierra (0-2, 1-12) don’t sport the same type of prestigious holdings in the conference standings, but will be no cakewalk for an Oakdale team (0-2, 4-10) that was has lost four straight games.
“There are definitely no cupcakes on the league schedule,” Oakdale coach Justin Schwitters said. “The VOL is very tough from top to bottom. This year we will have to dig deep and battle no matter who the opponent is to get a win.”
Oakdale fell 62-22 to Weston Ranch, and dropped a 48-17 decision to Kimball two days later despite trailing by just 11 points at the half. Kimball outscored Oakdale 15-2 in the third period and did enough to fight off the game-high production by Oakdale’s Blanca Lara (12 points, 8 of 8 from the foul line). Kylie Gust (three points), Francesca Orvis (one) and Mackenzie Ruthman (one) also scored for Oakdale.
Lara scored all eight of her points on free throws during the loss to Weston Ranch. Ashley Edwards fought for five points while Ruthman (three), Gust (two), Orvis (two) and Janny Garcia (two) all found the bottom of the net.
Oakdale was just 2-12 in the VOL a season ago after a year that produced five Sac-Joaquin Section playoff qualifiers from the league and three conference teams with home playoff games. The only program Oakdale beat (Kimball) is much improved in 2012, while the top three teams from 2011 (Manteca, East Union and Weston Ranch) seem poised to slug it out for the VOL championship yet again.
Manteca went 12-2 to win the title a year ago, but lost playoff positioning with a defeat to East Union (11-3 in 2011) in the final game of league. Weston Ranch was 11-3 in 2011 after losing to Manteca twice and beating East Union twice. The Cougars fell to Manteca in a 69-66 thriller on Jan. 6 of this year.
It’s a tough year for Schwitters, a first year head coach, to get his feet wet in the VOL.
“Many of the teams we play have been working under the same system for three to four years, while we have been working under our system for two months,” Schwitters said. “As far as our team goes, we are getting better, but we still have a ways to go to be able to consistently compete in league.”
Oakdale has a chance to snare a VOL win today in a home contest against Sierra. The varsity game will tip off at 7:15 p.m.
“I tell the girls all the time ‘the only thing that can help us is hard work, and if we continue to work hard good things will happen’,” Schwitters said. “I have been really happy with the effort some of the girls have been putting in. I feel like we are on the right track to getting better.”