Turnarounds aren’t easy, and for Ulysses girls basketball head coach Audrey Marshall, season one with the program was full of challenges.
The Tigers had their last winning season in 2019, when head coach Tim Hofferber led them to an 18-5 record with a state tournament appearance, but in the following three seasons, they only won a total of seven games.
When Marshall took over going into the 2022-23 season, she returned three starters from the prior two-win season and fought hard despite not winning a game.
The Tigers have found similar challenges so far this season, albeit often to considerably larger schools.
But back on January 20th, a nearly 40-game losing streak was brought to an end as the Tigers took care of Lamar High School (Colo.) handily in a 44-24 romp.
In that contest, senior Chloe Curl and junior Clarissa Sinanuqui - two of those three starters Marshall inherited from before her arrival - led the way offensively and defensively, with the former scoring 19 points with six rebounds and four blocks, and the latter with 21 points, three assists, and a dizzying 11 steals.
The Tigers capitalized on the momentum gained in that matchup and have now won three of their last four, with back-to-back wins against Hugoton and Cimarron.
Curl, a four year varsity starter, is more than just a talented teammate given the perspective she’s gained over that span.
“That experience has allowed her to be a mentor to our nine freshmen because she has been there and done that,” Marshall said. “She also sat out her whole sophomore year due to an injury. She understands what it means to be a good teammate without being able to contribute physically. Not only is Chloe our only senior, but she is also our tallest player. We rely on her to make big plays and to play big minutes. I think most of the girls on our team would love to play her role so they watch her and look up to her every day. She coaches her teammates and communicates her vision to us on the bench.”
The six-foot Curl is currently averaging 13 points, nine rebounds, and three steals on the year, while Sinanuqui is adding 10 points and four steals of her own.
Junior Natalya Sifuentes and sophomore Yoselyn Lerma are also two Tigers with varsity experience prior to this season, but outside of those four, the Tigers are young and inexperienced. But what they lack in terms of time on a varsity court, they don’t lack in the area of competitiveness, whether it be on the basketball court or anywhere else.
“These girls are athletes,” Marshall said. “They’ve learned so much about how far they can push their bodies mentally and physically. They’ve felt that connection that is built when winning is the goal. They know what that feels like and they can feel that same connection getting stronger each day they are part of this team.”
The group of freshmen, led by Erisbelie Alvarado, who is currently averaging seven points, six rebounds and two steals per game, aren’t just helping to raise up the Tigers hopes for 2024, but also in seasons to come.
“I feel these younger players are developing faster than our past players due to their leadership but also due to their passion for the game,” Marshall said. “They have come in strong from this past summer and have raised the bar for everyone on the team. Their ability to apply pressure in practice has helped us take a step further in growing as a team.”
But with just five regular season games left and the most brutal stretch of their regular season schedule long gone, the young Tigers and their coach are looking forward to more success this March.
“Our goal moving forward is to win at sub-state,” Marshall said.