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Hawks will compete shorthanded
• CV girls basketball program lacks numbers
Gabriella Benenati and Alyssa Rojo
Central Valley’s varsity girls basketball team has a host of newcomers on its roster, including Gabriella Benenati and Alyssa Rojo. - photo by Dale Butler

Central Valley’s varsity girls basketball team will compete with a thin roster this winter.

“We only have seven players,” head coach Jesse Padilla said. “It changes everything. We can’t run because we only have two subs. I’m just hoping we can stay healthy. We can’t afford to get hurt or we’ll be in trouble.”

Central Valley returns just one player from last year’s team in Norma Vera (Sr.).

The Hawks’ top newcomers are Alyssa Rojo (So.), Gabriella Benenati (Jr.), Rebecca Flores (Sr.), Makayla Bailey (Jr.), Brigite Martins (Jr.) and Willow Vanderheiden (Jr.).

Benenati, Flores, Bailey, Martins and Vanderheiden suited up for Central Valley’s junior-varsity team a season ago.

“I’m hoping all the girls step up,” Padilla said.

Central Valley struggled to a 2-22 overall record and finished in last place in the Central California Conference (0-12) a year ago.

The Hawks lost their final 15 games.

Central Valley will play Patterson, Atwater, Buhach Colony, Merced, Golden Valley and El Capitan during the CCC season.

Atwater won 11 of its 12 games while taking first in conference play this past winter.

“I’m not worried about wins and losses,” Padilla said. “I’m just trying to keep the girls positive as possible. They’re working hard. We just want to stay healthy and compete in league.”

Central Valley hasn’t compiled a winning record since the 2015-16 campaign.

The Hawks’ last playoff appearance came in 2016-17.

“It’s not going to change anytime soon,” Padilla said. “The numbers are going to have to change first.”

Central Valley’s participation rate has dropped the last three years.

The Hawks’ varsity, junior-varsity and freshmen girls basketball teams have a combined 24 players.

“I don’t know if the kids are losing interest and don’t want to play anymore,” Padilla said.