The last two years have been good to Spanish Springs. If all goes according to plan, this year will make it a third.
Two years ago, the Cougs advanced to their first ever state tournament. Last year, they won their first league title. This year? It’s to be decided. But the Purple has a lot coming back.
Spanish Springs lost three starters to graduation (point guard Jake Prizina, post Jacob White and guard Brandon Barlow) but the list of returners is highlighted by guard Marcus Loadholt and forward Josh Prizina. Both were first-team all-region selections as juniors.
Along with the return of sharp shooter Bryce Delong (honorable mention last season) and big man Ryan Anderson as well as the arrival of new faces that coach Kyle Penney feels can contribute immediately, the Cougs are a trendy pick this season.
Penney isn’t letting his team slurp in the hype, however.
“We’re not entitled to anything,” he said. “I think it’s good kids walk around with a chip on their shoulder and it’s a confidence factor, because confidence is important. But bottom line is we’re the hunted now. So people are coming after us.
“If we’re not going to accept that challenge and do what it takes to match that, that standard we have and that expectation people have of us, then all it is in talk. And we don’t want to talk. We want to be about action.”
After taking the program’s first ever No. 1 seed to the postseason last year, the Cougs were axed in the regional semifinals by eventual DI North champion, Galena.
To take a next step, and win the program’s first regional title, the team must focus internally, Penney said.
“It’s going to come down to confidence, discipline and execution,” Spanish Springs’ coach said. “Making no excuses, we are who we are. We have to deal with what we have and work through it. We have to get really good and be tough and be disciplined and play together. I think the team aspect is a big thing.”
One of the factor’s in Spanish Springs’ recent success, besides talent, is perennially playing a strong non-league schedule. That will be no different this year.
This weekend, the Cougs will travel to Napa to play squads from the other side of the mountains before traveling to San Diego Dec. 26-30 to play in the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic by Under Armor.
The Cougs will also host Morreau Catholic (an Oakland suburb school) on Dec. 11. The Mariners went 23-7 last season and finished the season No. 45 in the state of California on maxpreps.com.
“I don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into with that but it’s going to be really good for us,” Penney said. “Our standards and our expectations are ‘we have to be tough and disciplined’ and we don’t get that by not playing against good teams, good tough teams.”
Spanish Springs tips off the season tonight at home against Wooster at 7 p.m.