By Phil Dailey
Losing in the state regional final last season is still fresh in the minds of the La Jolla Country Day girls basketball team. That's not good news for other teams that want to compete for a Division IV state title.
The Torreys, who finished last season with a 26-4 record, were stopped short of a championship as they lost in the regional semifinal. This season, the team returns four starters who are focused and determined to reach their goal this season.
"From where we ended up last year, the expectations are really high," junior Maya Hood said. "We're coming in thinking that we always gotta be on top of our game and we gotta be the highest level that we can be. We want to be the best that we can be and go further than we did last year."
Maya, along with her sister Malina, are two reasons the Torreys will be one of the top teams in all of Division IV this season — both are being pursued by Division I schools. But this is certainly not a team with only two standouts; rather, it's a quick, athletic squad that gets up and down the court as well as any team in the state.
Senior Kaylah Miller, along with sophomores Kelsey Plum and Brianna Yasukochi, round out the team's starting five. All but Yasukochi started last year; she replaces Ariana Elegado, who now plays at Cal Poly.
For Miller, she remembers well what the feeling was like after losing by seven points to Bishop Montgomery in the state tournament.
"We're coming back strong from that; we're using that as motivation," Miller said. "We want to make it to state and win state. We want to get out there and do our best as a team.
"We're very pumped up; we had a great summer. We all played together so we have our solid four that have been playing together since sixth, seventh grade."
The early season will test the Torreys as they play in a several tough tournaments, including the Sweet 16 Invitational, the Nike Tournament of Champions and the Oaks Christian Holiday Hardwood Tournament — all which take place this month. The team also mixes in tough competition during the entire season with several top schools in the state such Mater Dei (Santa Ana), Santa Monica, Ventura and San Diego.
"Our schedule is probably one of the toughest you'll see," said Terri Bamford, now in her 12th season as the team's head coach.
Those types of tournaments should only make the team stronger as they head into league play and eventually the CIF playoffs.
"We have our checklist," Bamford said. "Our ultimate goal is to make it to the state championship."
This team has the talent to make a deep run in the state playoffs, but if there is one criticism, it may be that the team lacks some height in the post and the depth off the bench.
"We're small compared to a lot of teams," Bamford said. "I don't really like to call it a weakness. We're a little bit deceptive.