/ Jordy Espinoza/ el Don
Starting her 14th year as Santa Ana’s Head Coach, Flo Luppani is looking at a young core of talented players to return the Dons to the playoffs.
The veteran coach has plans for the Dons to be a force in the Orange Empire Conference this season after falling one game short of the playoffs last year.
“We’re way deeper and much more athletic this year,” said Luppani. “We also have the sting from last year and our returning players understand how painful it was to not accomplish that goal.”
Last season the Dons finished fourth in the OEC with an overall record of 12-14 (7-7) in conference play. The conference takes the top three teams to the playoffs and the Dons plan to be one of them.
One of the main reasons the SAC missed the playoffs last season was because of its subpar conference play.
But Luppani is confident that the team’s goal of making the playoffs is a motivating factor for her incoming players.
“I’m extremely confident, they’re all meshing very well, and I think that’s a testament to our team chemistry,” said Luppani. “We play team basketball, everybody needs to do their job because everybody’s job is important and balance will be key for us.”
Returning guards Sally Morris, Brianna Sanchez, Cheryl Caldera and Cailey Vitug are all entering their final season.
Point guard Morris is the key to the Dons’ offense. Last year she shot 29.5 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc last season.
“I want to shoot the basketball more, but not only that, I want to be a three-dimensional player and go in for rebounds, driving to the basket and play defense,” Morris said.
Sanchez, averaged three points per game last year and plans to be a bigger offensive contributor this season.
“Last year I know I wasn’t confident in taking all my shots, but the coaching staff has really helped me become a better shooter,” Sanchez said.
Caldera was one of the Dons’ leading scorers and rebounders a year ago and is focusing on team-building and developing a winning attitude.
“We want to dominate and just win and build up that team connection to its full potential,” Caldera said.
“Our team is not like any other team, I feel that other teams have clicks, but our team isn’t like that our team is like one big click and we all get along.”