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The Mirror

The student website of Van Nuys High School
Van Nuys, California
The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

A dynamic duo on and off the court

Girls basketball players Katya Tapia (L) and Jazmin Alejandre are tight on the court as well as off.

The abridged version of this article appeared in the Feb. 2023 print edition of The Mirror. This is an uncut version.

Varsity players Katya Tapia and Jazmin Alejandre were both freshmen when they began playing for the girls’ basketball team. 

But their connection goes beyond the court. Over the past four years, they’ve forged a friendship that has withstood the test of time and adversity. From the devastating loss of an entire season due to the pandemic, to navigating team conflict and coaching changes, Tapia and Alejandre have faced every challenge side by side, proving that their bond is unbreakable.

The two seniors first crossed paths at basketball tryouts during their freshman year.

“I was scared because there were a lot of girls trying out and they were so good,” Tapia said. “They knew all the basics, they played hard and I didn’t know all the stuff they knew and I felt very insecure.”

Her tryout experience was filled with uncertainty and fear, as she was in unfamiliar territory among a sea of talented players. However, her nerves were immediately put to rest when she spotted a familiar face from middle school.

“I remember they told us to get into partners and I sprinted over to Tapia and asked if she wanted to be my partner,” Alejandre said. “She happily said yes.” 

From that tryout day forward, Tapia and Alejandre have remained close friends and steadfast teammates. Tapia’s role on the team is as a guard, where she excels with her deadly three-point shots. Meanwhile, Alejandre shines as a power forward, known for her impenetrable defense and accurate jump shots. The two have formed a dynamic duo on the court, complementing each other’s skills and driving their team to success.

Neither girls’ introduction to basketball started at the tryouts. 

Alejandre was exposed to the game through her father’s Sunday pick-up games and her older brother’s organized games. Over time, she developed a deep appreciation for the sport, drawn in by its excitement and camaraderie. In seventh grade she put her own skills to the test and stepped onto the court. Since then, she’s never looked back. 

Basketball has been a part of Tapia’s life since fifth grade. Growing up with a father who was a die-hard fan of the game, she felt inspired to pick up the sport and try out for the Van Nuys High School team. From her first practice, she was hooked. The adrenaline rush she felt on the court, the excitement of making a basket, and the sense of accomplishment that came with it all combined to create a love affair with the game. Now, as a senior, she continues to play with a passion that only grows stronger. 

“I have lost my self-motivation many times, usually because of the stress basketball brings me,” “The stress of feeling like I’m not finishing my academics and feeling like I’m going to fall behind because of basketball.”

— Jazmin Alejandre

Throughout their time on the team, the duo has faced constant challenges and changes. One potentially-destabilizing issue seemed to crop up each season.

“Every year, we had a new coach,” Alejandre said. “Sometimes, we didn’t like how they did things.”

Their current coach is Steve Eshleman. However, prior to him, other coaches came and went. While some brought new techniques and strategies to the table, others were met with resistance by the team as players grew tired of the constant repetition of learning new plays and adjusting to new coaches.

One of the biggest hurdles came during their sophomore year when the school moved to an online learning model due to the pandemic. The girls and the rest of the team turned to Zoom and virtual training sessions to prepare for when they could finally step back onto the court.

“Both Tapia and Alejandre worked really hard since the summer,” Coach Eshleman said. “Neither of them got much playing time over the previous three years, so that’s been a little bit of a struggle. But they have put in the time to try to improve their game. With more experience and a little bit of playing time, they’re gonna get better.” 

It took effort and dedication to maintain their grades and perform well on the court. 

“I always get stressed with all the school assignments I have to do, but anytime I’m free I’m always catching up on homework,” Alejandre said.

They had to prioritize their academics while still making time for the sport they loved.

“I go to sleep late every night, but I do have a schedule,” she said. “Just as long as I get six hours of sleep, I will be alright.”

Despite these challenges, Alejandre and Tapia persevered and adapted to the ever-changing landscape of their basketball journey. They leaned on each other for support and learned to thrive amidst the turmoil, using it to their advantage.

After winning their away game against Reseda High School on Jan. 20 with a score of 45-10, the girls’ team qualified for the playoffs. 

With this school year being their last year playing for the team, Alejandre and Tapia hope that when they play their last few games of the season, more girls are inspired to join the team.


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About the Contributor
Isabel Valles, Athletics Editor
Through participating in multiple sports writing competitions, I was able to prove my commitment to the class and was chosen to become sports editor in my second year of journalism. My love for sports writing came around the time my love for sports developed around 6 years ago. Another thing I love about writing about sports is being able to inform and catch up readers about games that they may have missed. Currently I play three sports, flag football, track and field, and basketball. After high school I plan on attending either the University of Pennsylvania or the University of Santa Cruz. My goal for this year as editor is to become a better leader and learn from any mistakes that I might make in the process.
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