By Sammy Mora
Photo by Emily Pascua
With a new coach at the helm and a roster filled with experienced players, the Juan Diego Catholic High School girls basketball team has hopes that this is the year for it move past the first round of the playoffs.
Last year’s team finished 17-5 (6-2 in region play), but its playoff hopes were ended prematurely by a 33-31 loss to Carbon in a first-round playoff game.
Center Sarah Christiansen played in 18 of the 22 games for the Soaring Eagle last year. This year, she is transitioning into a more dominant role on the team, joining fellow captains Monique Mills and Dominique Mills. They are among the five seniors on the team, which has 14 returning players. Christiansen feels the team is bonding well.
“As a team, we hope to finally find our balance and work together and take region this time and win over Morgan and hopefully get past the first round of state,” Christiansen said.
Juan Diego’s girls basketball team begins region play in January. The Mills twins and sophomore Becca Curran have been putting up big numbers as the Soaring Eagle has opened the season very impressively. Their 76-50 win over Tooele Tuesday gets the team to 11-0 heading into 2015.
Monique Mills is scoring nearly 20 points per game, while Dominique averages slightly less than 18 a night. Curran is an outstanding 3-point shooter, and she seems to have her best nights in the biggest games, as she scored a season-high 21 in the season-opening over Brighton and dropped in 19 as the team knocked off Timpview. She hit four 3-pointers in each of those contests.
“We all need to get better at talk, that’s for sure, telling each other where we are, who needs help on defense,” she said. “Now we have a pretty strong offense and a pretty strong defense. So far, it’s pretty good.”
Josh Archuleta is the new coach, and he previously coached at Judge Memorial as well as for the Salt Lake Lady Rebels. Christiansen says the team gets along well with its coach. “(He) is able to work with everyone and so far, all of the players have been able to bond with him,” Christiansen said.
Archuleta says his coaching philosophy has two themes: “Fail Forward” and “Championship Effort.” He says the first motto focuses on what happens after mistakes are made, as the players inevitably will. As players learn from their mistakes, they become physically and mentally strong.
“If every time you fail, you learn and get back up, resilience becomes routine instead of the exception,” Archuleta said. “‘Championship Effort’ is a motto derived from understanding that wins and losses come and go, but understanding that being consistently great comes from hundreds of tiny actions done day in and day out and will ultimately build habits that are geared towards team and personal success on and off the court.”
Archuleta wants to set a tempo of his own for Juan Diego basketball.
“I try not to compare myself directly with the previous coaching staff. (I) have friends who were here previously, and sometimes the fit just isn’t meant for all programs,” Archuleta said. “But I do think my staff and I have made a strong impression early on through fall ball and up to this early point in the season.”