The Glendale Community College women’s basketball team is staying in the present.
The Vaqueros have turned the page on the success of the 2018-2019 season, which featured the program’s first conference title this century, the best conference finish in 16 years, four all-conference team selections and one all-state honoree, and will focus on the new season.
With four returners and new faces on the team and in the newly merged Western State Conference South Division, the Vaqueros will have to juggle the challenges they face this season, and in order to maintain last season’s success, Glendale coach Joel Weiss and the team will not worry about outside factors.
“Our focus is more just on us,” Weiss said. “The only thing you can really coach is your team. That’s our focus. It’s how we can be the best team we can be.”
It is the same mindset that led the Western State Conference East Division champions to the third round of the California Community College Athletic Assn. Southern California Regionals last season, where the ninth seed fell to top-seed Moorpark. Glendale capped the season with a 22-6 overall mark and rode a nine-game winning streak to finish 9-1 in conference.
“Our goals are very simple,” Weiss said. “Every practice, we try to get better at the things we are teaching, and then every game, we try to compete as hard as we can. Take whatever happens from that game and learn from it, address it, fix it and then get ready for the next one. We don’t think too much too far ahead. I’m not even thinking about conference right now.”
That drive and motivation from his returners will trickle down to the incoming group of players, Weiss said.
To lead the way is a quartet of sophomores in point guards Penelope Trieu and Zoe Rouse and shooting guards Gloria Bianchi and Tess Oakley-Stilson, a La Cañada High graduate who earned all-conference honors last year after averaging nine points and four rebounds per game.
“Tess has constantly improved,” Weiss said. “She has constantly improved because her work ethic is a 10 out of 10. She runs every sprint as hard as possible and she does every rep in practice as hard as possible, so she’s gotten better from where she was last year. She will pick up a bigger role in all components.”
A key addition to the team will be Vicky Oganyan, the Vaqueros assistant coach for the last three years who will transition from the sidelines and on to the court.
Oganyan, who is the current head coach of the Burroughs girls’ basketball team and a 1997 Glendale High graduate, will not only help guide the newcomers, but provide better insight on the floor as well.
“She’s extremely intelligent and she knows basketball very well,” said Weiss of Oganyan. “She sees plays far ahead of what a lot of players see. She’s a very tough competitor. She’s loyal and hard-working.”
Of the six other new additions, Polina Kovaleva of Taft High brings versatility and gives the Vaqueros depth.
“She’s skilled,” Weiss said. “She can shoot and she can drive. She’s very versatile. She has good size and she’s getting stronger, so she’ll play a number of positions for us and we’ll figure out what her best position is for us as we go.
“She’s been impressive in the fall and I like her versatility. She can handle the ball, she can shoot, she can rebound, she can defend smaller players or bigger players.”
The CCCAA revamped the conference in the offseason. The Western State Conference merged the East Division with the four-team South group, making an eight-team conference.
Glendale will be bundled with newcomers College of the Canyons, Bakersfield College, Santa Monica College, and West Los Angeles College, last season’s South division champion.
While Barstow College and Victory Valley College have been moved to the Inland Empire Athletic Conference, Antelope Valley College, Citrus College and Los Angeles Valley College will be familiar faces for the defending-champion Vaqueros.
The Vaqueros will take part in six tournaments, hosting its own starting Nov. 15 in a home opener against San Bernardino Valley.
Glendale opens the season Thursday in the Merced College Tournament against Fresno College.
“The schedule is challenging because we want to play really good teams,” Weiss said. “We’re expecting difficult games, but we had difficult games last year. You get in them and you figure out a way to win. I think if you do that, you prepare yourself for conference play.”