Now that the Cougars have a recent taste of the playoffs and even a playoff victory, they are more eager than ever to return to the regional tournament.
"They want to get back to the playoffs. They got a taste of that, and that's where they want to get back to," SSHS coach Christine Eckles said. "They know they can do it if they run the system, play together and just work on getting better everyday."
However, the Purple and Teal will have to do it without the reigning High Desert League Player of the Year after senior Jordan Rogers had surgery on a torn ACL in early September.
Rogers set single season school records in scoring, assists, field goals made and attempted as well as free throws made and attempted in the first year with the program after transferring from cross-town rival Reed.
Despite losing Rogers' 17 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.2 steals and 1.8 blocks per game, Spanish Springs' cupboard isn't dry.
The Cougars have seven other players returning from last year's squad, including four players entering their third year with Eckles: seniors Danielle Beebe, Courtney Darby, Caitlin McKinney and junior Ari James.
James and Darby were both selected to the all-HDL second team last season. James averaged 9.1 points and 7.1 rebounds a game, while Darby had 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds a contest.
Beebe rounded out Spanish Springs' selections as an honorable mention after racking up just under 8 points a night.
"Obviously we have to play better team defense and try to keep teams from scoring as much because we don't have that go-to player who can score like Jordan can," Eckles said. "It will have to be a group effort every night to fill her absence. I think the kids are ready to do that. It's a veteran group of kids, and they've been playing a long time. The seniors definitely want to have a good senior year, and they've been focused on making that happen in practice. We still have some very good high school basketball players."
Spanish Springs played in a jamboree in Sacramento, Calif. on Saturday and competed in four back-to-back abbreviated games. Eckles liked what she saw for it being early in the season.
"We're trying to look at what's right in front of us and evaluate ourselves early on in the season," Eckles said. "We're just focusing on getting ourselves better until we get to league and the games matter a little bit more. It's just about adjusting to play without Jordan, and everybody is learning their new roles."
She will get to see a lot more when the regular season opens Monday night at home against Damonte Ranch. The planned starting five includes Beebe, Darby, McKinney, James and senior Tiffany Lang.
The Cougars don't have a prototypical point guard. McKinney, James and Lang are expected to see some time at point.
Eckles does like the balance between the guard play and down low. Depending on what opponents give them, either the guards or the forwards could have big nights. However, Eckles said the post play will have to be consistently good night in and night out.
The Cougars' path to the postseason might have gotten a little less stressful after Galena and Bishop Manogue switched leagues. Spanish Springs' success last winter went down to some last-minute battles with those teams. Still, the competition will be missed by Eckles.
"We've been in the league a long time, and I've always been playing Galena. I always love coaching against (Galena coach) Karen (Friel). She's a great coach who I have a lot of respect for," Eckles said. "I will miss that. But I also like the change and get to see some different teams and develop some new rivalries.
"It's going a very tough league. You can't really take any nights off, which was the same boat we were in last year. You can't really take any time off to relax."