Girls varsity basketball team welcomes two new coaches


Irina Malyugina

Head coach Daniza Rodriguez talks to players during a girls basketball practice.

by Anna Vazhaeparambil, Reporter

Sneakers squeak and shouts echo from the gym floor in the Athletic Center as the girls varsity basketball team cheer each other on while they run sprints near the end of their practice. At the sidelines, their new coaches, Daniza Rodriguez (’13) and Joelle Cariaga, yell encouraging words, urging the girls to go faster.

Rodriguez and Cariaga joined the girls varsity basketball team in mid-October as the new head coach and assistant coach respectively, after former head coach Dan Pringle retired. They will be working with Joan Marciano, who remains the team’s assistant coach from last year, to coach the girls this season.

Rodriguez, who has been playing basketball since she was six years old, attended Harker for high school and played on the school varsity team for three years, continuing at Whittier College after graduating. Now returning as a coach, she aims to use her own experiences to help the girls grow as both basketball players and as people.

“I think the adaptation of being a sport and not a lifestyle really hasn’t crossed over yet, and I want these girls to understand that basketball isn’t just the physical but it’s also a mental sport too, and that it will relate to their lives later on,” Rodriguez said.

She is currently implementing more conditioning in practices and is focusing on developing the fundamentals of the game and strengthening the team’s bond with each other.

“I think some of them are a little sore,” Rodriguez admitted about the running. “But they are also learning that they will be needing each other and that this is not an individual sport — this is a team sport — and I think the girls are finally understanding and they’re excited to grow together.”

This value she holds for connections between teammates is reflected in her friendship with assistant coach Cariaga, whom she has played with for seven years. Cariaga also grew up in the Bay Area playing basketball and has been coaching in local camps since she was in high school. Like Rodriguez, she hopes that the girls are able to push themselves and each other this season in order to become a stronger and closer team.

“We want to create this environment that’s positive and also welcoming for these girls to look at each other like sisters or family,” Cariaga said.

Sara Lynn Sullivan (11), who has played on the varsity team since she was a freshman, notes how excited she is for the upcoming season and how different it will be than previous years.

“Our coaches have been pushing us to play better than the day before, and I really think that we’re taking that to heart,” she said. “We’re in much better condition, our communication is better, and we’re much more prepared than we’ve ever been.”

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on December 6, 2018.