There was no shortage of success for the La Monte Lady Vikings last season.
They were able to win a district title before falling short of a quarterfinal appearance by nine points.
One reason for La Monte’s success is its defense, especially the play from Sandra Arroyo on that side of the ball.
Arroyo has made stealing the basketball the top aspect of her game. She averaged five steals per game last season.
“She is a momentum changer in the game,” said La Monte head coach Donnie Mayes. “That is just her personality. I love every bit of it. … We have to force her to slow down offensively sometimes because she’s just a million miles per hour every step of the way.”
Arroyo isn’t the tallest player, only listed at 5-foot-6, but early on in her high school basketball career she learned that defense was a way for her to contribute.
“I’m not very tall for a basketball player so I just felt like freshman year I needed something to be good at,” Arroyo said.
It’s worked out so far for her. Whenever the Lady Vikings need some momentum, Arroyo is finding ways to take the ball away to create quick transition points.
But this season has a new challenge for Arroyo with some changes to the rules.
“They are really clamping down on what you can do defensively,” Mayes said. “We’ve been tweaking that. … We’re having to change where we out our arms and how we stand. We won’t know until the games actually start how they are going to be called, but according to the rules we’re tweaking around that.”
Arroyo did get into foul trouble at times last season and the task of staying in the game may be harder for her this season with the rule changes.
“Sandra is a very aggressive defender, but I have a lot of faith in her to stay out of foul trouble this year,” said senior Vada DeMotte.
Arroyo can get steals by picking off passes, but she also likes to try to lap the ball away from ball handlers. The new rules could make it difficult for Arroyo to use that tactic.
“On the dribbling aspect it can,” Mayes said. “Sandra does a phenomenal job of anticipating a pass. She has had a habit of reaching and slapping at the ball when they are dribbling it. We’re told that’s going to get you into some foul trouble this year.”
But Arroyo said she’s made it one of her goals to avid fouling out of games and she said she can make the necessary changes to her game to accomplish that.
“That’s a new challenge for me, but I think I can take it,” she said. “Anything to help the team.”
Entering her senior season, Arroyo is doing her best to possibly create the next momentum changer for the Lady Vikings.
“Whenever we play against the freshmen I’ll give them advice on what I do as a defensive player and what they are going to see in games to help them,” Arroyo said.