‘We always compete. We never quit.’

Tsé Yi’ Gai girls focus on teamwork, postseason goals

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero

Tsé Yi’ Gai Lady Diné Warrior Shyann Toledo, sets up for a shot against guarding Shiprock Northwest Lady Falcon Kylee Denoyer (50) on January 31 in Shiprock.

FRUITLAND, N.M.

At the start of the season, teamwork was a farfetched idea for the Tsé Yi’ Gai girls’ basketball team.

The Lady Diné Warriors lost key players to graduation and were about to embark on a new journey.

Tsé Yi’ Gai head coach AD Nezbegay said it made for a rough start to the season but the team worked through it.

“A lot of it was negative stuff, the attitude and stuff, we had to work it out in order to succeed,” he said. “We had a lot of stuff like that. Now there’s teamwork and encouragement among teammates.”

The shift in attitude and teamwork has led Tsé Yi’ Gai to become one of the top contenders in District 1-2A, tied at 6-1 with Dulce (as of Tuesday’s deadline).

Nezbegay said it took a few games to see that they needed to make mental and emotional changes before they could change anything on the court.

He said they had difficulty adjusting to new players and it showed.

“It was a struggle for a little bit,” Nezbegay said. “We were trying to find our identity. And we had a hard time getting the basketball in the bucket – that was our struggle.”

Faith Lopez, a senior, said it was a grueling process to try and get on the same page. She said they managed to but it’s a continuous process.

“We’re trying to get together again,” she said. “We’re working on becoming more of a team. It’s coming together.”

Having finished as district champions last season and making it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament, Lopez said the team sensed some pressure.

She said it was good pressure because the team needed motivation to work together.

“We were trying to live up to last season,” Lopez said. “Our record was good and everything. Last year we lost our main leader, so we were trying to come together to get that back. We were able to do that, we depended on each other mostly.”


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About The Author

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Sunnie Clahchischiligi has been the sports writer for the Navajo Times since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of New Mexico. Before joining the Times, she worked at the St. Cloud Times (Minn.), the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sports Illustrated Magazine in New York City and the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at sunnie@navajotimes.com or via cell at (505) 686-0769.