Mustang’s ready to stampede

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Delta College Men and Women’s basketball teams are set to begin play on Nov. 6 and 7.

Both programs have brought success in the form of 35 combined conference championships dating back to 1963, according to deltacollege.edu.

The Lady Mustangs, led by Gina Johnson in her 20th season as head coach at Delta College, look for a three-peat as Big 8 conference champions, and a third consecutive trip to the state Final Four this year.

“Their goal is definitely to try to win another conference championship,” said Johnson. “… But we’re not as tough as we need to be. If you’re going to win something big like a state title or state Final Four bid, we’re going to need to figure out how to rebound and get tougher.”

In an effort to get tougher, Delta traveled to Southern California on Sept. 27 to play in a tournament against teams such as Irvine Valley (loss), Citrus (win), Cypress (loss), and San Diego City (win) — three of which are ranked in the top 15 of the California Community College Women’s Basketball Coaches Association South Region Preseason Poll.

“I think the trip to SoCal was definitely good for us especially so early to help us play against some better teams that have been playing together longer.” said sophomore captain and guard Natalie Delgado.

Sophomore guard/forward Raynell Lynn agreed and also added that “It’s preparing us better for [the] season and the way that they play down there is a better way to warm us up.”

Competition will continue to heat up as Delta opens their season against the defending state champions, Chabot Gladiators, in the first round of the Jocelyn Mancebo Classic in Joe Blanchard Gym at 1pm on Nov. 6.

One day later, the Delta Men’s basketball team will begin their season at the Cabrillo College Tournament in Aptos, California.

Having missed the playoffs only once in his seven seasons, Delta College Head Coach Rich Ressa will set his sights on improvement and trying to capture the Men’s first Big 8 championship since 2009.

“We have to go through some adversity, we have to go through a little bit of the season, grind it out and see kind of what we’re made of,” said Ressa.

The Mustangs have competed in preseason events such as the Skyline Scrimmage in San Bruno and the Nor Cal Fall JUCO Jamboree in San Francisco.

“I feel like we’re coming along really well,” said sophomore forward and Captain Justin Nieto. “There’s still room for improvement, but I feel like we’ll be doing really well this year as a team.”

According to Coach Ressa, David Lerma from Jim Elliot, Alex Smith from St. Mary’s, Christian Allen from Franklin-Elk Grove and Jovian Cormier from Heritage are just a few incoming freshmen who could become key contributors for the team this year.

“There’s some other new guys too,” said Ressa. “All will have some impact at some level and sometime this year.”

While the goal is to win state, the Mustangs know it will take a lot of hard work.

“Like coach Ressi always says, ‘Achieving that standard,’” said Nieto. “He always tells us about the difference between success and excellence and we’re trying to go for excellence.”