Alta girls basketball team gearing up for a successful seasonDec 02, 2016 03:03PM ● By Billy Swartzfager
The 2016–17 Alta girls basketball team poses for an early season photo after practice. (Elizabeth Gustafson/Alta Head Coach)
By Billy Swartzfager | [email protected]
Tryouts for the girls basketball team at Alta happened the week of Nov. 7, and their preseason games began a couple short weeks later on Nov. 22 at American Fork. The Hawks will continue playing preseason games through December and will begin to play region games, of which they will play 14, in January.
Alta is expecting big things of themselves this season. The team has multiple seniors who played last year at a high level, and a couple of sophomores who were also valuable pieces of the 2015–16 varsity squad that played in last year’s semifinal state tournament game. That team lost a heartbreaker to Springville by only one point. Last year’s team finished first in the region.
This year’s team is led by seniors Mariah Martin, Lexi Walbeck, Mykell Johnson and Kacey Blackner. The returning sophomores are Kemery Martin and Deserae Falatea. Those returning are expected to set the tone for new players and underclassmen playing junior varsity or on the freshman team, a new addition for this season.
“I expect big things as far as those girls exhibiting a great work ethic and leadership outside of basketball,” said Elizabeth Gustafson, Alta’s head coach.
The team is going to need good work ethic and solid leadership if they are going to accomplish their goals for the season. The Hawks want to go undefeated in their region for the year, a tough order. But the coach believes the players she has returning can get it done. Alta also wants to get back to the state tournament and play for a championship.
“We want to repeat in our region, we want to get over the one-point loss from last year and play on Saturday morning,” said Gustafson, referring to the championship game.
The team was busy during the offseason, in an attempt to maintain their rhythm and camaraderie. The team played in the Summer Jamboree at Utah Valley University, as well as the Big Mountain Jam at the South Town Expo Center. They also played in a league with Murray Parks and Recreation that was home to several other teams from other high schools.
“We take most of the team to these offseason events,” Gustafson said. “We have a pretty good crew.”
Alta is also developing a system to remain competitive as girls graduate and others move into the system. Alta has added a freshman team this year as well as a bantam program for Sandy kids in sixth through eighth grade.
“We are trying to build better basketball in the Sandy area,” Gustafson said. “That will ultimately help Alta.”
Gustafson emphasized that believing in each other and trusting one another’s abilities is going to be crucial in achieving their goals as a team for the season. Gustafson said they have built mechanisms to teach those principles to all of the girls in the entire program. The whole squad is looking forward to taking all of the things they have gained last season and throughout the offseason into games this winter.
“We are looking forward to another great year of Alta basketball,” added the coach. “We’re super excited.”