Napa Valley College women's basketball

Napa Valley College women's basketball coach Brian Fonseca crouches between assistant coach Fidel Alva and the six players he had available for Tuesday's home game against Modesto.

Andy Wilcox, Eagle

The last two Napa Valley College women’s basketball seasons were canceled due to a lack of enough players, so eight will work for new head coach Brian Fonseca.

“It’s a solid group,” he said after the Storm played a competitive first half during a 69-37 loss to Monterey Peninsula in their home opener on Nov. 21.

With everybody being new to the program, including its three sophomores, NVC (0-8) has been rising slowly from the ashes – especially after Fonseca didn’t make their pre-Bay Valley Conference schedule any easier.

The Storm opened the season at the Cosumnes River College tournament with a 59-point loss to a 14-player L.A. Trade Tech squad that had eight sophomores, and a 26-point loss to large school American River.

Against Monterey Peninsula, another opponent with eight sophomores, NVC closed its 12-point deficit to eight with six minutes left in the second quarter before the Lobos closed the half on a 9-0 run.

“We’re new, and then we have a game like this, playing a lot of sophomores who are like a machine,” Fonseca said of Monterey Peninsula, which had 11 players. “One of the things that’s hard for us, besides our lack of experience, is with eight people it’s challenging to simulate wave after wave after wave (of opposing defenders) in practice. We just have to dig in. We’re in a tough spot, but nobody feels sorry for us.

“Until we establish a reputation when people play us, they’re not going to be worried about us. I don’t think Monterey was, and when veteran teams get going they’re pretty relaxed. We’re really, really going to have to come with some toughness from the get-go.”

The Storm were tenacious on defense and attacked the basket, drawing 22 free throws, but could have benefited from a few 3-pointers. They had none, while Monterey Peninsula drained four.

“We had a few looks (at threes) that could have kept us in the game, but that’s part of being a young team,” Fonseca said. “If you don’t make shots, you get a little flat. Every time we made a mistake they capitalized. That’s the difference between a veteran team that’s been through a few wars and one like ours.”

Like all other teams in the Valley, the Storm were hampered greatly by the cancellation of two weeks of practice during the October wildfires – not only with learning his system but with conditioning.

“That was a real crucial time for us. It broke our rhythm,” said Fonseca, whose team had begun practices the week before the fires. “It makes a lot of difference when you’re two weeks behind in practice, and it really shows in games like this. We’re battling and we’re trying some things – it’s just a real process – and when you’re young and life gets in the way sometimes, it just kinda is what it is.”

“We weren’t healthy for a while; people were sick or hurt, so we have all these things going on. But we need to get in the gym and grind out and get better. We have a lot of season to go.”

The Storm’s sophomores are Napa High product Alivia Trzesniewski, Middletown graduate Kaitlyn Depp and New Tech alum A’janae Lyles, a guard-forward. Trzesniewski, a guard who was the Offensive Player of the year on the 2014-15 All-Napa County team, played last year for Solano. Mick-Mickinzie, a forward, was a finalist for 2016-17 All-County Defensive Player of the Year.

The freshman forwards are Justin-Siena graduate Allyssa Mick-Mickinzie and Vintage product Amy Christensen at forward. At guard are Mare Island Technology Academy alumna and former Vallejo High player Ajaloni Irvin, Vacaville Christian product Kierra MacKinzie and Wood graduate Donjanique Washington.

Fonseca hopes his team can catch up as the season progresses.

“We’re just taking our first steps and it’s all part of the process. We’ve just got to keep looking ahead,” he said. “When you haven’t played as much, you’ve got to trust each other and start coming together more. Everybody’s got to step up.

“If you have a team of 12 and somebody’s sick, no big deal, you have 11. With this group, you have to realize, each one is 12.5 percent of the team. There’s so much more responsibility on everybody’s shoulders.”

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Sports Reporter

Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.