KINGSBURG – It's easy to see how much Kingsburg girls basketball head coach Mark Willis believes in this year's team.
All you have to do is look at the team's schedule.
With confidence the team has what it takes to make a run at a Central Section title, Willis has the Vikings' schedule packed full of teams that got to Selland Arena last season all the way from Division I to V.
By season end, the Vikings will have played last year's Div. I runner up (Clovis), Div. III champion (Madera), Div. III runner up (Sanger), Div. IV champion (Sierra Pacific) and Div. V champion (San Joaquin Memorial).
They'll also play Immanuel twice, a team that though didn't make Selland, was able to win a state playoff game as a No. 15 seed in the Regional playoffs.
“Our goal is to compete for league and to get to Selland,” Willis said. “When everyone is healthy, I think we're a serious contender for a Valley championship.”
Kingsburg will play that daunting schedule for the most part not at full strength until it gets players back from serious injuries.
The team lost multiple players to ACL tears last year and won't get another one back, Emily Fuentes, until the middle of January. While Fuentes has already begun to practice with the team, Willis said she has to sit out during contact drills.
“We're another team when she's on the court,” Willis said of the point guard. “Until she gets back, we'll have to figure out how to play without her.”
The team returns seven players, including four-year varsity standout Karen Rodriguez and Maddy Reed. Rodriguez, a 5-11 center, is a two-time first team All-Central Sequoia League selection. Reed is a three-year varsity player.
“We expect big things of her,” Willis said of Reed.
Last year, Kingsburg went 9-19 overall and tied for fourth in the Central Sequoia League at 4-6 before losing to Kerman in the first round of the Central Section Div. IV playoffs.
The big test for Kingsburg will be an away game at Sierra Pacific, where the Vikings will see in person the team to beat in its own division.
The Golden Bears went 29-5, advancing all the way to the Southern California Regional semifinals. Sierra Pacific returns that entire team with last year's squad having no seniors.
Still, Willis told his team to not focus on early results and just focus on continuing to get better.
“We know we're going to take our lumps early,” Willis said. “When everyone is healthy, I think we're a serious contender for a Valley Championship.”