Fifteen games into their inaugural season, the Pioneer Lady Diamondbacks are struggling to find their identity. With five sophomores, six juniors and only two seniors on the Lady Diamondbacks roster, head coach Nicole Villarreal is not yet sure who her key players or starters are going to be once the district schedule begins against Valley View Tuesday of next week.
An extremely young team is just one of the challenges the Mercedes High School graduate is facing in this her 19th year of coaching.
“I don’t have any kids with any with varsity experience,” explained Villarreal. “I’ve got kids who played at the freshman and JV level last season, so our lack of experience is our biggest challenge. We are using each game as a teaching tool, utilizing game film to teach after games. Our practices are filled with fundamentals, footwork, form, spacing, etc.”
With a 2-13 start to their season, the Lady Diamondbacks are learning the hard way that developing a winning program takes time. However, Villarreal is making the most of each game whether it results in a win or loss.
“Our better basketball is ahead of us and the girls understand that, but it’s not easy,” Villarreal said. ‘”Losing is tough, I understand that, but at this point we need to lose the games not the lessons that come from losing. ‘Lose the game, not the lesson,’ is what I’ve continuously told the girls.’”
As for how she expects her coaching philosophy to help her build a successful program at Pioneer High, Villarreal said, “My philosophy entails developing the program through fundamentals and skills while teaching the game I’m passionate about. It’s going to take hard work and commitment from myself, my coaching staff and all the kids in the program to accomplish this.”
Tuesday evening the Lady Diamondbacks suffered a 55-45 loss at the hands of the 8-5 Palmview Lady Lobos. While the double digit margin may give the impression of the game being an easy win for Palmview, that was not at all the case.
With five minutes to go in the game the Lady Diamondbacks gave the Lady Lobos a scare when they came within one point of tying the game at 42. However, with less than 60 seconds remaining on the clock, and Pioneer still within striking distance, Palmview closed out the game with six unanswered points to seal the 10-point victory.
After the game Villarreal expressed her satisfaction with the way her girls played despite the loss.
“I’m really proud of my girls’ fight,” shared Villarreal. “I think we did some really good things tonight and I believe that there will be some carryover to our district season which opens next Tuesday. I saw some positive things from my girls tonight and as I keep telling my team, every game is a lesson.”
The Lady Diamondbacks will be looking to end their non-district schedule on a winning note tonight as they travel to Rio Hondo to play the Lady Bobcats. They will then be opening their inaugural district season at home Tuesday against the Valley View Lady Tigers. Tip-off for tonight’s game is scheduled for 7:30 while Tuesday night’s game is scheduled to tip-off at 6.