By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
Del Norte High girls' basketball coach Buzz McCulloch is curious to see what type of team he has this year.
He'll get his chance to have a better idea of what his squad is capable of on Friday when the Warriors begin the season at the Girls' Pacific Rim basketball tournament in Gold Beach, Ore. Del Norte faces Pacific High of Port Orford, Ore., at 4 p.m. The tournament concludes Saturday.
"It will show who is going to be able to step-up and play," McCulloch said.
The Warriors finished last year with a 11-14 record.
The team is a mixture of girls with starting experience, newcomers and those who played only sporadically last year, although the team does include five seniors.
A few players, including Lauren Godla, a starter from last year, have decided not to return this year.
McCulloch said there is not a "go to girl" at this time. Last year, that player was Ashley Webster, who graduated.
But he likes the skills his squad brings to the table.
"We're not very big this year," McCulloch said, saying his tallest player is about 5 feet 9 inches. "But we have speed this year, so hopefully we can go out and run the ball a little bit."
McCulloch's goal for the upcoming season is to have a winning record and be competitive in the Big 5 Conference. "It's a good, strong league we're in," he said.
A key to success this year is for the Warriors to play "good tough defense," McCulloch said, which he has been emphasizing in practice.
Another key is improving free throw shooting, which was a problem last year. McCulloch said the lack of free throw proficiency cost them the game on more than one occasion.
"It makes it tough to win," he said. "We've got to make our free throws."
Junior Bailee McCulloch, the coach's daughter, who is known as a jumper that can rebound the ball well, is recovering from an injury suffered last week when she rolled her left ankle.
The hope is she will be able to play this week, although it is still up in the air.
McCulloch also is looking forward to the return of senior Kristi Gavin, who played a number of minutes last year. She is on vacation with her family and is set to return next week.
Senior Alyssa Luna has a deadly outside shot and is good at going for the rebound, he said.
Junior Robyn Suzuki, the smallest player at only 4 feet 11 inches, has great ball handling skills and a great enthusiasm for the game, McCulloch said.
"She's always hustling," he said.
Only a freshman, Lauren Lesina has directly passed junior varsity and is already one of the team's tallest players at 5 feet 8 inches.
McCulloch said she is already a pretty good shooter.
"She is going to help us this year," he said."She is going to get minutes."
After this weekend, the Warriors next play on Dec. 7 through 9 at the 34th annual Yvonne Rocha Tournament in Fortuna. On Dec. 7, Del Nortewill face Anderson High.