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Run, Monarchs, Run PDF Print E-mail
Written by San Fernando Valley Sun   
Thursday, 25 October 2012 07:06


Well Guarded - Annie Avanessian, Lydia Pope and Jackie Sanchez (l-r), all guards, will attempt to lead the young and inexperienced Los Angeles Valley College women's basketball team to the Western State Conference playoffs.

The Los Angeles Valley College 2012-13 Womens' Basketball Team Will Be Small And Inexperienced, But Fast

Like Rome, building basketball programs takes more than a day. Los Angeles Valley College womens' basketball Coach Monica Hang said as much when she took the position three years ago, and she still says it as her team prepares for the 2012-13 season.

"We're still building," Hang said. "Where I want to get to is far from where we are. I want to have a championship team, conference and state. But we're doing the right things to get there. It's just gonna take some time."

Year Three under Hang will be different than the past two. That's because Year Three will be fast and furious.

LAVC, which opens its season at the Mt. SAC Tip-Off Tournament Nov. 9-11, lists 11 freshmen on its 15-player roster, meaning chemistry and team cohesion will be developed through much of the season. Its main assets are speed and quickness rather than size. Meaning the Monarchs will first have to run down their opponents, and then run away from them to be successful.

Hang sounds as if she appreciates the challenge.

"We're very young. But I really like this group of ladies," she said. "They work really hard, they're very positive, and they work well together. They get along on and off the court.

"There's no superstars, like (last year's) Vanessa Aguilar, who could hold her own and score. But everyone understands their role and accepts their role. And they play like a team. I think they're gonna do well."

Last year's team was 18-12 overall, and finished third in the Western State Conference's South Division. It had four players – Aguilar, Rachel Estrella, Brianna Smythe and Annie Avanessian – named to the division's All-Conference team.

Three of them have moved on. Aguilar, who led the Monarchs in scoring (18.0) and assists (3.3), is now at UC Irvine University. Smythe, who averaged nine points and 9.7 rebounds, is at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Estrella, who averaged 11.3 points, was headed to Hope International University in Fullerton, but changed her mind about attending.

The identity of last year's team was playing more of a half-court possession team that leaned on Aguilar, Smythe and Estrella to do the bulk of the scor-ing. The identity of this team has yet to be forged.

It may start with Avanessian, a sopho-more, who is 5-9 guard/forward. She averaged 10.2 points and 6.1 rebounds last season and is expected to have a more featured role in the offense.

"I'm expecting more from her," Hang said. "She's really working on her outside game because at the next level she's going to be a guard – which she is capable of. She can pull up and shoot and she can take it to the rim. She's athletic and strong, can post up, is tough.

"She's a captain and she's doing a great job of leading this group. I can just turn to Annie and say 'this is your team, what's going on?' And she gets them right on track, which I love."

Avanessian, who won a Los Angeles City Section Division III championship at Monroe High in 2011, said her hunger to win title at LAVC is "at an all- time high," and she is preparing to shoulder more responsibility for the team's point production.

"I think I should," Avanessian said. "What's a reasonable goal? I'd like to see [her scoring average] go up to 18-19 points. That does mean more shots; but it's about my team first. If it's easier to pass to get a score I'll do that. We're all a team and we have one goal: that's to win."

Another key veteran would be sophomore guard Jackie Sanchez, who came out of Alemany High, and who Hang describes as "probably the most fundamentally sound athlete we have." Although not a big scorer, Sanchez contributes a little bit of everything to the Monarch's cause from rebounds and steals (25) to defense.

"She's a 5-9 athlete who can shoot the 'three,' be a point guard, can post up, can make the right passes and right decisions. So we're going to look to her for leadership as well," Hang said.

Sanchez said she's even hungrier than Avanessian for a championship.

"I've never (been part of a title) banner; at Alemany I never had the chance," Sanchez said. "For myself, I want it more than anything. This year I want to push my team and myself to get there."

Among the plethora of new faces Hang is molding are three "fallbacks," players who have already spent time at a four-year school but are start-ing over at a junior college: Lydia Pope, from Fresno Pacific University; Kaila Turner, from Cal State Los Angeles; and Doshnie Montalvo, from Cal State San Bernardino.

Pope is under the most pressure. At the moment, Hang is planning on her being the starting point guard, running the team on the floor. So Pope, who only has one year of eligibility, has a concentrated amount of time to learn Hang's system and how to maximize her teammates' abilities.

"She has a lot to learn and produce in a short amount of time – just like Vanessa last year," Hang said. "And she's capable of doing that; she's going to be an impact player. She's a point guard, she has experience at the four-year level and knows what it takes."

Pope, who was born in Inglewood and raised in Bakersfield, said she's grateful for the change of scenery.

"When I first got (to Pacific University), I thought that was where I was supposed to be,"

Pope said. "(After graduating Bakersfield Ridgeview High School in 2010) I wasn't supposed to go anywhere; I wasn't recruited, and I had a difficult time finding someplace, so I readily sought her (Coach Erin Schotz) out. I tried out, and she (put her) on the team. But after being there the first semester, a lot of things went wrong. And it was basically torture being there. I wasn't happy, and I had to redshirt." Pope also sustained a right ankle injury that, while not requiring surgery, required several months of rehabilitation. While recuperating at home, Pope decided to find another school.

"I got tired of sitting at home and needed to do something. I started just googling colleges in L.A. And I sent some emails out to a few people, including Monica Hang. I just prayed about it that night, thinking whoever called me first is where I was supposed to go. And God did set it up for me. She called me at nine o'clock the next morning."

What a coach, whether male or female, can't do is teach height. And height – or lack of it – will be among the Monarch's biggest challenges.

There is one player on the roster -- freshman Bobbie Morgutia – that is listed as a center. There are two true forwards, and two guard/for-wards. The other 10 roster players are listed as guards.

So don't expect Valley College to lead its conference in rebounding and blocked shots.

"We just have to work with what we have. If we have to go five guards then we'll go with five guards, and use it to our advantage," Avanessian said.

"We're still working on get-ting to know each other. It's not going to happen overnight," adds Sanchez. "But since the summer, it's a big difference. We have grown together, and most importantly, we have each other's back."

Last Updated on Friday, 26 October 2012 21:43