First-year Head Coach Caitlin Eichlin and her La Costa Canyon girls basketball team got a harsh dose of reality Tuesday, Dec. 11, from defending CIF Open Division champion Mount Miguel. The second-ranked Matadors scored 18 of the first 22 points, opened up a 37-13 lead with 5:35 still left in the first half and breezed to a 72-49 victory. The loss that left the Mavericks, who were beaten by Mt. Miguel in the first round of last year’s CIF Open tournament, with an uncharacteristic 3-4 record, four consecutive defeats, and no doubt re-evaluating what it will take to get in the same vicinity as the section’s elite squads.
Mount Miguel (9-1), paced by 5-6 sophomore Sylena Peterson’s 27 points, are strong, athletic, aggressive and well-drilled. They took control of the contest with a flood of steals and layups while using defensive pressure to force LCC into bad shots and unforced errors. Eichlin, whose team competed hard throughout, was disappointed but resolute afterwards.
“We’ve had a tough stretch against some very good teams but seeing those teams early on will show us our holes and our weaknesses and give us a lot of opportunities to work on them,” said Eichlin afterwards. “It’s only December and we’ve got a lot of time left.
“I can definitely see us improving and competing with teams like Mount Miguel before the season’s over.”
Junior Haley Dumiak led the Mavericks with 10 points while fellow post Hannah Etheridge chipped in with eight, a total matched by senior guard Carolina Sanchez. Dumiak and Etheridge compiled 16 of their 18 combined points in the second half when Eichlin made full use of her bench.
“I think this was one of the best bench games we’ve ever had,” said Eichlin, who played at LCC and served as an assistant coach before taking the head coaching reins this season. “My freshmen and sophomores always come to play—they take the opportunity and are never scared.” While staying upbeat, Eichlin did not sidestep the areas where her squad needs to show improvement.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on defense,” she said. “We need to be able to shut down their shooters, get into better help side positions and stop fouling so much (Mt. Miguel went to the line 26 times).
“On the other end of the floor, we need to run a calm, cool, collected offense and be able to keep our heads up and see the court when somebody’s in your face.”
Given La Costa Canyon’s heritage, which includes CIF championships in 2009, 2011 and 2013 as well as a runner-up finish as recently as 2016, it’s probably not wise to count anything as out of reach just yet. Eichlin saw some important pieces to build on Tuesday night.
“No matter what the score was, every one of these girls played hard the entire time,” she said. “That’s a great sign. It’s hard when one team is running away like that to keep the motivation up but all five girls on the floor and everyone on the bench had high energy. That kind of positive energy will pay dividends.”