With no seniors and just one win on the season, the Santa Clara Bruins are certainly in a rebuilding situation. However, despite injuries and players unavailable due to vacation, the Bruins have been improving quickly.
After a handful of lopsided losses, Santa Clara played toe-to-toe with both Monta Vista on Jan. 7, losing by just four points, and Mountain View on Jan. 10, losing by just a single bucket. A home game against the league-leading Homestead Mustangs on Jan. 14 ended up being another lopsided loss, but the team only had six players available. Santa Clara simply ran out of gas, losing 59-36, but they did pull within 19-12 in the second, and 28-20 in the third quarter after having trailed 14-4 early on.
One of the key reasons for the Bruins’ turnaround has been the play of recently recalled freshman Vanessa Calvillo. Despite playing just her third game on varsity against the Mustangs, Calvillo was the most impressive player on the court, arguably for either side. The freshman’s energy was infectious, stripping the ball from opponents on defense, and distributing the ball with excellent passing vision on offense.
“Vanessa coming up has been a huge help for us,” said sophomore Alison Aochi. “She always helps bring the ball down the court and she brings energy every game. She helps us push the ball and everyone seems to hit shots when she’s in there.”
“She’s had an impact right away,” said Bruins Head Coach Deedee Kiyota on her new freshman star. “Even when we brought her up for her first practice I saw that she would have an impact, in just that practice alone. Her intensity, energy, her speed, defense alone…the other girls see that and they pick their intensity up. She’s brought a new breath to our team.”
With Calvillo in the mix playing a big role, the freshman is helping provide junior captain Annie Liu additional scoring help. Liu continues to be the Bruins’ go-to scorer, but now the team has an additional ball handler that can help take some of the pressure off. After the loss to the Mustangs, Calvillo talked about what she has seen as the biggest challenges moving up to the varsity level.
“It’s definitely a lot faster than JV was, they move the ball faster, everything is just a quicker pace,” admitted the freshman. “It was definitely hard to adjust to that speed.”
Perhaps the freshman was simply being humble, as it she didn’t appear to have any problems with the speed against Homestead. Defensively, she was forcing multiple turnovers and distributing the ball with impressive passing on the other end. After the game, Calvillo was also asked how she would describe her own style of play.
“I love to talk, I love to yell, I think that brings intensity to the court, and I guess you could say I’m kind of quick,” explained Calvillo.
Calvillo and the Bruins will look to win their first league game of the season when they play next at Milpitas on Friday, Jan. 17.