Elsie Allen girls basketball on the rise after years of struggle
For perhaps the first time, hope surrounds the Elsie Allen girls basketball team.
In a school that has had very little athletic success in any sport during its quarter-century of existence, the team is in its third straight year of improvement.
So far this season, the team has won 12 games — believed to be a record for the most wins in any single season for the Lobos.
That also equals the total number of Lobos victories in the eight seasons combined since 2011-12. In that stretch, the team record was 12-171.
“I knew there was a challenge here,” said second-year coach Tony Sivillo, who had previously coached only elementary and middle-school kids. “There was a drought. They were thirsty. There was a drought, but they are drinking from the well.”
But Sivillo, who is also a pastor, had faith that change could happen.
Such a change would be momentous. The team has been a cellar-dweller in league standings since 2006-07. The Lobos haven’t won a league contest since 2010-11.
But a 12-0 start against mostly small-school opponents from around the region has given the team a spark never felt before.
“It’s definitely a change,” said four-year varsity player Karely Vazquez, the team’s 5-10 center. “It’s been a change of mentality. This is a good group of girls.”
Sivillo knew his first year would be a trial, and it was.
The Lobos won more than they had in a long time and finished 7-18 overall. But the team remained winless in the North Bay League-Redwood Division (0-10).
He trod “very lightly” that first season, Sivillo said, getting to know the girls and letting them get to know him and how he intends to run the program.
“He pushes us to our limits,” said Vazquez, an all-league honorable mention last year. “He pushes us to do what he knows we can do.”
“What’s made the difference,” Sivillo said, “is that I’ve given them a new vision, high standards for them on the basketball court. I’ve given them principles to live by on the court and off the court.”
They’ve responded well, he said. They are more respectful, more even-tempered when something doesn’t go their way. They’ve shown up to offseason events and the drama has just about disappeared.
After winning seven games last season, Sivillo and the team set a preseason goal this year to qualify for the playoffs.
“They are lofty goals,” he said, “but they are attainable.”
The Lobos are close. Though they dropped their first league game, 68-25, to El Molino on Wednesday, one more win would assure them of at least a .500 record, one of the criteria the postseason selection committee considers.
Even more, add two wins and the team will guarantee its first winning record ever.
The closest the Lobos came to the even-water mark was in 2007-08, when they finished 11-17 and 2-13 in league.
Breaking into the league win column may be difficult, but Sivillo believes his girls have a chance. They have a rough stretch ahead, though, facing defending league champion Rancho Cotate on Friday and Maria Carrillo next week. They host Piner on Jan. 17.