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Upper School Varsity Athletes Celebrate Winter Season Success
Dianne Willoughby, Editorial Manager

“Nueva’s Upper School winter varsity teams had their best season on record,” said Chris Wade, Interim PreK-12 Athletic Director. “Every member brought so much heart to their teams both on and off the field of play. They led with the Maverick spirit of teamwork, perseverance, and passion for personal improvement.”

Boys’ Basketball 
In a historic and magical season, the Upper School boys’ varsity basketball team earned many firsts: a record of 22-6, first place in the Private School Athletic League (PSAL) North, and advancement to the second round of the CIF State Tournament.

Following their undefeated PSAL campaign, including 11-0 at home, the Mavs secured the #3 seed in the Division 5 CCS Tournament, and for the first time in school history, advanced to the final. Finishing as CCS runner-up, the team earned an automatic qualification to the quarterfinals of the CIF State Tournament, an exciting moment! 

Seeded 12th in the north section of the Division 5 state bracket, the Mavs were then on the road against CIF Central Section Champion Liberty High School from Madera, CA.

“This was my favorite game,” said Cooper M., senior and co-captain. “Once we got there, it felt like the entire city of Madera had come out to cheer Liberty. With face paint and banners, they cheered so loudly it was painful. We had a small crowd, primarily team parents.

“When the first half ended, we were down ten points, but in the locker room, no one had their head down. We improved our defensive strategy, and every player came forward with a huge effort on every play. In two minutes, the score was tied, and in just a few minutes after that we had gone on a 33-5 point run, putting the game out of reach for Liberty. We could hear every one of our fans cheering, and our bench was so loud that the refs gave us a warning!”

Nueva outlasted Liberty, 79-66 to advance to the second round of the CIF State Tournament, but was unfortunately eliminated by a familiar foe, Eastside College Prep.

Upper School Boys' Basketball

The team’s co-captains, Kyle M. and Cooper, attribute their success to the Maverick spirit of never giving up and their belief in one another. “Positivity and cohesion of the team on and off the court was everything,” said Kyle. “When we had late practices, we’d study together, motivated to be prepared to devote ourselves to basketball when the time came.”

“Coaches can’t teach our kind of culture, but they transmitted it through the reflections and lessons they shared with us one day at a time,”  said Cooper. 

Cooper also shared his deep respect for his co-captain. “Kyle was the best player on the court and could have easily scored 1,000 points, but he played unselfishly. He passed first, ran the offense, and he brought everyone else up with him.”

Four student-athletes received all-league recognition, two first-team All PSAL, including Kyle as MVP. While Kyle and Cooper are the team’s only graduating players, a number of other seniors have been instrumental in key roles including scoreboard management, shot clock, statistics, etc. The team will return to the court next fall, experienced and hungry for more.

Want more? Read about them Kyle and his brother, Connor, a Nueva freshman, in the Los Altos Town Crier.

Girls’ Basketball 
In a hard-fought season, the girls’ varsity basketball team advanced to CCS for the third straight year, hosting their first CCS game in Nueva program history. 

The Mavs opened the season with a difficult non-league schedule, playing large local schools. These challenging games prepared the team for a strong PSAL conference run, which they finished 8-6.

“Our first game against Capuchino High School was really rough, and hard on our confidence,” said Anjali S., one of two graduating seniors and team co-captain. “But it takes practice, and our games started getting closer. To see our progress when we started winning was really rewarding.”

Upper School Girls' Basketball

The transition from middle school to high school sports can be daunting, with twice the number of games and practices. Alice, E., Nueva junior and team co-captain, was thrilled to see so many new players join this year, including six freshmen. “A big part of our improvement over the season was the way the younger players learned the commitment, organization, and pace of playing a varsity sport,” she said. “When that clicked, we really got better.”

Two members of the team were recognized with All-PSAL awards. When asked about memorable moments, Anjali said, “We had one game where everyone played and scored, and it was great to see.” 

“My favorite games were those I assisted more than scored,” said Alice.

Both students were sad to see the season end, but excited about the bright future of the young team and program. With a few more recruits, a JV team may be on the horizon, and with the community spirit that is building around athletics, the groundwork is already established.

Anjali closed, “Every year we’ve moved farther and added new elements. We encourage the team to continue this path, and each player to continue to grow as they did this year.”

Boys’ Soccer
The boys’ varsity soccer team approached the last week of their season with a chance to secure first place and advance to CCS, but had a tough loss to the league’s current leaders, Cristo Rey High School. The Mavs landed in fourth place in PSAL with a respectable 12-5-1 record, earning another great finish for this young program.

Inspired by their 2018 end-of-season tie against last year’s leader, Latino College Prep, the Mavs started strong, going 6-0 to open the season. After a number of setbacks, a turning point came for the team when they again met Latino College Prep, and prevailed, 2-1.

“They were dominating us in all directions, and it was not going well,” said Tom S., team co-captain and one of the ten seniors the team will graduate this year. “Right before the half, we scored, and then our freshman backup goalie made a huge save. Then we defended. It was the happiest we ever were playing soccer.” 

They followed up with a five-game winning streak mid-season, allowing them to control their own destiny late in the year. 

The team’s success did not go unnoticed by PSAL league members, which was visible in the league’s post-season awards: Coach Josh Davis was recognized as the PSAL Honor Coach of the year and five members of the team were recognized as All-PSAL, including PSAL Offensive Player of the Year, Sebastian O., ’21.

Upper School Boys' Soccer

With the graduation of ten seniors, the team will be challenged next season, but senior and team co-captain Ben C. believes the team possesses the raw materials they need. “The team will be young, but they are mentally strong, with well-developed skills,” he shared. “Other teams lose seniors but what will matter is who’s ready and who wants it more. There’s a lot of hope and a lot of time to make something great happen.”

Girls’ Soccer 
In convincing fashion in their first year of eligibility, the Upper School girls’ varsity soccer team went undefeated in league play and 12-2-1 overall, taking first place in PSAL North league with an 11-0-1 record. When the season began, they dropped their first match and then won their next 11 games, allowing only three goals during this streak! 

According to seniors Sophia Y., Sanam Y., and Libby M., the highlight of their success was the PSAL Championship 4-2 victory over Latino College Prep. “Tensions were running high since we had tied Latino College Prep in a matchup the week before,” said Sanam. “While playing the Championship game in Sunnyvale, the spectator energy was definitely on their side until our boys’ varsity soccer team showed up to cheer us on. This was our hardest game to win and our biggest success.” 

The Mavs advanced to the Division 4 CCS Tournament in Santa Cruz where they battled valiantly against Monte Vista Christian, but fell in first round play, 3-1.

While excited about their winning record, these three graduating seniors reveled in the many successes of the season. “This team is only in its second year, and we helped create it,” said Sanam. “Students who wanted to play took a leap of confidence to join, and over time, our team developed into something special.”

“We were successful because we were really close,”  said Libby. “We recruited players because we created an open and welcoming environment that was not intimidating.”  

Sophia added, “Our coach really facilitated the cross-grade interaction and skill development by being able to successfully train all skill levels. He made sure that everyone had playing time and he made appropriate drills.”

Nueva had 12 student athletes receive all-league recognition, including PSAL League MVP Gaelen C., ’21, and Offensive Player of the Year Sophia Y., ’19.

These departing seniors had a wish for their teammates: To maintain the closeness achieved this year and continue to improve their skills. “Our high points were watching each other succeed. It was great to see Gaelen dribbling down the entire field, or watching the excitement of the freshmen who won end-of-season awards,” said Libby.  “Our relationships expanded well beyond the soccer field, and this made our team strong.”

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