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The Sonoma Valley Dragons girls basketball team should have been in the catbird seat right about now.

What with returning the Sonoma County League’s co-MVP in Jenny Eggers and the league’s defensive player of the year in Sami Von Gober, as well as coach of the year Sil Coccia?

Add to that second team all-league pick Grace Cutting, honorable-mention selection Renee O’Donnell and a slew of seniors, and you have yourself a potent mix. Then why are the defending SCL champs sitting on a 5-7 record and heading into league play next week with a sub-.500 record?

“I think it’s like a mental thing where we are not in it right now,” Eggers said. “We are good, we have lots of talent, but as a team, as of right now, we are just not playing as a team.”

Coccia was more succinct.

“We have incredibly underachieved,” he said. “I think the kids just maybe had this expectation that we did so great last year and we are returning basically everybody and we’ll be fine and we’re not.”

A great season it was: The first outright league title in 31 years, a school record 22 wins and a slew of all-league awards.

So why the slow start?

“It’s one of those things you can’t put your fingers on,” Coccia said.

But the Dragons are trying to figure it out, trying to solve the chemistry puzzle, trying to light their own fire.

“It’s kind of hard to pinpoint,” defensive specialist Von Gober said. “Last year we did not think we were going to do well. We were the underdogs every time out. It’s that mentality, ‘Oh we are not going to win but we are going to try. I’m going to go down fighting every minute of every quarter’ because that is what we had to do to win.”

Ironically, the Dragons might have dug for themselves a big enough hole that they just might be considered underdogs from here on out.

“Maybe we are again and we kind of have to fight like that,” Von Gober said.

The Dragons certainly won’t have an easy go of it with the likes of Analy and Petaluma on their plate. Von Gober said every team in the league can pose a danger on any night.

Wins have come with their defense. The Dragons have held opponents to 28 points in their five wins. In their seven losses? They gave up an average of 47 points a game, which is not an other worldly number. The Dragons just need to score.

“We haven’t done that bad defensively, but offensively we aren’t scoring enough points,” Von Gober said.

Against Palm Springs on Monday they scored just 22 points.

“We were just shooting the three pointers up the ying yang and nothing was falling,” she said.

They need to get the best shot instead of the first shot, she said.

And the Dragons need to get hungry. Two of their games were nailbiters and they came up short on both. They lost to Napa 43-42 and to San Rafael 42-40.

“Those were games we were winning last year,” Coccia said.

Coccia has tried to impart on his team the history of what they achieved last season — the first league pennant in three decades and a school record for wins. Another SCL pennant would double down on history.

“If we win the league again, it would be the first time ever that they won two in a row at Sonoma Valley,” he said.

“How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to do something historic?” he said. “That would get me. That would make me play that much harder.”

It might just be a case of cracking open one great game, Eggers said. A confidence builder, a reminder of what the Dragons are capable of.

“We are so used to doing so well so now our coaches hold us to a bigger standard and now we are afraid of not being perfect,” she said. “We need to think about playing our best game.”

The Dragons just may have made a step in that direction Wednesday night when they posted their highest point total this season in their 59-34 win against Bethel High School of Vallejo in the West Coast Jamboree. Maybe that offensive outburst cracked the seal.

They’ll likely find out if it’s a trend Saturday night at home against Terra Nova High of Pacifica. After that, it’s a league opener against Elsie Allen High.

Turning it around will take a little hunger, a little fire. And sometimes unexpected losses stoke that fire. At least that’s what Eggers, Von Gober and Coccia hope.

“What I think we are striving to do is get our mojo going and get it back to start league play next week,” Coccia said.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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