Girls’ varsity basketball team remains the only undefeated team in MCAL after victory against Drake

Francesca Fox

Blocking an opposing team player, sophomore Sadie Leonard attempts to intercept the ball.

In the stands of the Redwood gym on Thursday evening, Jan. 23, fans buzzed with excited energy in anticipation of what would be an exhilarating game between the Redwood girls’ varsity basketball team and Drake High School. Despite Redwood’s secure lead throughout the game, ending with a final score of 47 points to Drake’s 31 points, it was a challenge for the team to tackle Drake’s strong defensive tactics, creating a tense atmosphere.

Junior guard Stella Neuschul said that although the team struggled to find their rhythm in the first half of the game, they pulled through in the second half after injuries took both team captains, junior Kylie Horstmeyer and senior Chenna Mendieta, off the court. Both had collisions with opposing players as they were going up for lay ups, resulting in Horstmeyer’s sprained ankle and Mendieta’s hurt back. Without Horstmeyer and Mendieta, who average 20.4 and 7.9 points per game, respectively, pressure fell on the rest of the team to take on Drake. Although this was the first time both team captains were out of the same game, junior Cassidy Allen was not shocked this happened.

Shooting a free throw, junior team captain Kylie Horstmeyer assists the Redwood girls’ win.

“Coming into it, we knew it was going to be a tough and physical game from playing [Drake] last year. A lot of [Drake’s players] are aggressive towards us because they’re kind of intimidated,” Allen said.

Knowing some of Drake’s defensive tactics from experience, the team prepared strategically during practice to overcome them.

“One main thing that we were working on at practice [yesterday] was breaking a press, which is where the other team tries to steal the ball from you before you even cross off court so they get an easy basket,” Neuschul said. “We actually did really well tonight to not crack under pressure even without two strong players.”

The team has also started using methods to prepare not only physically but mentally for their games. Junior Addie Duryee believes that mindfulness has contributed to the team’s overall success.

“A friend of our coach comes in after practice in our team room, and she leads us through these [mindfulness] activities,” Duryee said. “It helps us play better. It [reduces] the worries from school or home life and even basketball. It gives us a minute to think in the moment.” 

Looking to pass the ball, senior captain Chenna Mendieta is heavily guarded by a Drake player.

With the win, the team has improved their winning streak to 11 games. The girls also attribute their undefeated streak this season to their coach, Diane Peterson.

“Diane pushes us really hard. She’s like our second mother, and for some of us even like our first mother. She pushes us even when we think we can’t do it anymore,” Neuschul said.

After losing the Marin County Athletic League championship by only one point last year, the team looks forward to working on winning this season. Their next game is on Jan. 28 at Redwood against Terra Linda High School.