LODI GRAD READY TO BE­COME LEADER

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Bush NEWS-SEN­TINEL SPORTS WRITER

Mon­ica Valen­zuela is used to play­ing on win­ning bas­ket­ball teams.

This sum­mer, the for­mer Lodi High girls bas­ket­ball player, a four-year starter at for­ward and guard who grad­u­ated in 2017, is putting in a lot time to be­come big­ger, stronger and faster six days a week. She is also po­si­tion­ing her­self to be­come one of the team lead­ers on the Holy Names Univer­sity women’s bas­ket­ball team this win­ter.

“I’m feel like I’m try­ing to be­come that leader,” Valen­zuela said dur­ing a phone interview Thurs­day.

On top of that, the 5-foot-11 Valen­zuela, who is at­tend­ing Holy Names Univer­sity on a schol­ar­ship, is also en­joy­ing the sum­mer life in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia that in­cludes car­ing for a fam­ily mem­ber be­fore re­turn­ing to the Oak­land col­lege as a ju­nior later this sum­mer.

Last win­ter, Valen­zuela, a ki­ne­si­ol­ogy ma­jor, av­er­aged 6.3 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. In Pa­cific West Con­fer­ence ac­tion, she had 6.5 points per game for the Hawks. She played in 28 games and started in five. In con­fer­ence ac­tion, she played in all of the Hawks’ 22 games and started in three. In her fresh­man year, which was 2017-18 sea­son, she played in 27 of 28 games and av­er­aged only 2.6 points per game.

The Hawks’ won-loss record, how­ever, were far from stel­lar. Holy Names Univer­sity posted a 3-25 over­all record, in­clud­ing a 3-19 mark in the PWC. Dur­ing the 2017-18 sea­son, the Hawks went 4-24. Dur­ing her four years at Lodi, Valen­zuela and the Flames had a com­bined record of 75-25.

One of the goals for the 2019-20 sea­son for the Hawks is earn a post-sea­son berth in the PWC Tour­na­ment.

“I talked to my coach,” said Valen­zuela of a con­ver­sa­tion with Hawks head coach Dave Covell dur­ing the off-sea­son. “We re­ally want to get into the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment this (sea­son). We sat at the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment last (sea­son) and we talked how we have to get there. We’ll do what­ever it takes to get there.”

In her se­nior year at Lodi High, Valen­zuela av­er­aged 15 points per game. Dur­ing her four years, she made the Tri-City Ath­letic League’s first team.

Bas­ket­ball wasn’t the only sport that the for­mer Flame played. She was on the Lodi girls golf team all four years and the girls’ track and field squad for three.

Life is a lit­tle bit stricter for the for­mer Flames bas­ket­ball player. At the end of last sea­son, Valen­zuela and the rest of the squad — mi­nus the se­niors who grad­u­ated last month — took a manda­tory one week off from bas­ket­ball, which came per­fectly at spring break.

Af­ter the break, Valen­zuela and re­turn­ing play­ers were put into an off-sea­son conditioni­ng pro­gram; work­ing on their agility and weight lift­ing three times a week.

“It’s usu­ally an up­per body work­out,” Valen­zuela said. “It’s re­ally in­tense.”

Valen­zuela ad­mit­ted she didn’t pump iron dur­ing her four years at Lodi High. But be­ing an NCAA stu­dent-ath­lete has changed since the be­gin­ning of her fresh­man year at Holy Names Univer­sity.

“I picked it up pretty quick,” Valen­zuela said. “Now I just love work­ing out.”

How much does Valen­zuela love work­ing out in the gym? Liv­ing in San Diego for the sum­mer, she lifts weights six days a week. She plans to stay that pace until the start of the 2019-20 school year on Aug. 21.

“I like get­ting stronger,” Valen­zuela said. Valen­zuela is also ad­her­ing to the off-sea­son work­outs that the team has given to her and re­turn­ing play­ers. That in­cludes a lot of run­ning to build up their en­durance.

“That’s the part I’m fo­cus­ing on,” Valen­zuela said. “Get in the best shape that I can be­fore the sea­son starts.”

The Holy Names Univer­sity women’s bas­ket­ball coaches, ac­cord­ing to Valen­zuela, want re­turn­ing play­ers to be in tip-top shape en­ter­ing the Hawks’ pre-sea­son work­outs.

“They want us to come back show­ing some progress,” Valen­zuela said.

Valen­zuela is also work­ing on her skills on the court. In par­tic­u­lar shoot­ing from in­side the paint to near the 3-point line.

“This year I need to be­come more of a maker in­stead of a shooter,” Valen­zuela said. “Shoot­ing, get­ting quick off the drib­ble is what I re­ally need to work on.”

Al­though Valen­zuela ad­mits that she loves to “drive to the bas­ket” when there’s an op­por­tu­nity.

In ad­di­tion to her aca­demics and the start of the bas­ket­ball sea­son, Valen­zuela is sched­uled to start an in­tern­ship in work­ing with the school’s ath­letic train­ers.

Valen­zuela is in San Diego this sum­mer, liv­ing with one of her cousins and her hus­band. Dur­ing the day, Valen­zuela cares for the cou­ple’s daugh­ter, Olivia, who is 2 years-old. When they come home from work, Valen­zuela goes to the gym.

“It’s tir­ing,” said Valen­zuela of car­ing for a young child. “My cousin is work­ing four, five days a week; she’s gone from early in the morn­ing until 5 (p.m.).”

That’s OK with Valen­zuela, who is de­ter­mined to be­come a bet­ter leader. The sum­mer work­outs, she feels, will pay off.

“I’m mo­ti­vated, es­pe­cially this year,” Valen­zuela said. “We haven’t been doing well, as well as we want to.”

Valen­zuela has ad­justed well to life as an NCAA col­lege stu­dent-ath­lete. She car­ries a 3.4 grade point av­er­age.

“You have to create your own time, be re­spon­si­ble to get things done; es­pe­cially if you’re an ath­lete,” Valen­zuela said.

Valen­zuela is one of three for­mer Lodi area high school grad­u­ates who are play­ing sports at Holy Names Univer­sity. Re­cent El­liot Chris­tian High grad­u­ate Bai­ley Cor­reia will be play­ing soft­ball, and re­cent Tokay grad­u­ate Se­bas­tian Quiroz will be play­ing for the men’s soc­cer team.

COUR­TESY PHOTO/HOLY NAMES UNIVER­SITY

Lodi grad­u­ate Mon­ica Valen­zuela dur­ing women's bas­ket­ball ac­tion this past sea­son at Holy Names Univer­sity in Oak­land.

COUR­TESY PHOTO/HOLY NAMES UNIVER­SITY

Lodi grad­u­ate Mon­ica Valen­zuela, right, dur­ing women's bas­ket­ball ac­tion this past sea­son at Holy Names Univer­sity in Oak­land.

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