Team already has more wins than last season
By Phil Dailey
Winning is more fun than losing, right? Just ask the La Jolla High School girls basketball team.
This year, at a little more than the midway point of the season, the Vikings have more wins than all of last season with a 7-9 record.
That record may not be that impressive to some, but last year the team only won five games.
The last time the Vikings had a winning season was way back in 2006, a year they went 19-8 before losing in the second round of the CIF Division III Tournament to Santana.
Several factors are responsible for the turnaround this season.
“I think we’re a lot more focused at practice this year, and of course the new players are really good and help us out,” said Ashlyn Warney, a senior and captain for the Vikings.
Having a focus is easy when the results are positive, but what the team didn’t know entering the school year was that they would have a few new additions. Sisters Ashley and Sierra Westhem transferred to La Jolla from Palm Springs, while sisters — and twins — Maren and Rakell Andreassen are at La Jolla High for one year as exchange students.
On the season, the foursome are responsible for nearly half of the team’s points.
The majority of the scoring output, however, is coming from Ashley Westhem, a senior, who was second team All-Desert Valley last season at Palm Springs High School.
She points to team unity as one reason the team has tasted success this season.
“I think that it has a lot do with at the beginning of the season, I came in there really with a sense of team unity and I’m used to the school sports being a part of the whole school atmosphere and team spirit,” Ashley Westhem said. “I really wanted to bring that feeling of camaraderie to the team.”
And it’s worked.
“The only way to be successful on the court is to be successful off the court,” Westhem added. “And now it’s all coming together.”
For second-year coach Karen Hartzman, this season has gone much smoother than last year as she was taking over a team with players and a program she was not familiar with.
“Last year was my first year with these girls so it takes a while for them to get used to me and my style,” said Hartzman who played college basketball at Nebraska-Omaha and was also a graduate assistant at Arizona State.
The team’s success also has come from putting in the work to get better.
“I think we have really just become more devoted this year,” senior JD Neri said. “We take it a lot more seriously, our practices are a lot more intense. We’ve come together more as a team, everyone is kinda new so its easier to make bonds with people.”
Though the team has won more this season than in the past several seasons, the goals at the beginning of the season were not necessarily based on wins and losses. It was about working each day to become a better team to be more physical and not get pushed around by other schools.
“Last year we had a great group of girls but this year I feel like everything is a little more basketball serious,” Hartzman said. “We are all here for the same goal — we are all here because we want to be good, we want to compete and we want to get better.”
For Hartzman, this season is about building something at La Jolla High. It’s about building a team that can be respected in the community.
“Nobody likes to lose 20 games in a season, that’s tough,” she said. “It is about building a program and starting at the top with the varsity level and then creating excitement and buzz so the kids in junior high, they know they’re excited to go to La Jolla because there’s a girls basketball program that’s headed in the right direction.”
And of course, they want to have some fun along the way.
“It’s definitely more fun winning,” Warney said. “It’s kinda rewarding to be with a team, we all just click and are able to play well together.”
Up next for the Vikings is a home game Friday night against Scripps Ranch at 6 p.m.