WATSONVILLE — Stepping in as an interim head coach two weeks into a season, as St. Francis Athletic Director Adam Hazel did for the girls’ basketball team this winter, is never an easy thing to do.
Unless, Hazel argued, you have Janessa Yniguez spearheading your team.
“She did an awesome job on the leadership end,” Hazel said of his senior point guard. “As a coach, it makes your job easy if your best player has an A-plus work ethic.”
Yniguez’s leadership and effort earned praise from the rest of the coaches of the Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress division, too, as she was recently named the division’s Most Valuable Player.
With Yniguez leading the way, the Sharks won a share of the PCAL-Cypress crown — the program’s first league title since the 2010-11 season — and advanced to the Central Coast Section Division V semifinals.
“I wasn’t really expecting this, and I wasn’t really expecting to win league either,” Yniguez said. “It was awesome to see everyone come together and play for each other.”
The speedy 5-foot-2 guard shone in league play, averaging 20 points, 4.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 steals over the Sharks’ 10-game league slate.
St. Francis finished with a 7-3 PCAL-Cypress record, and tied with Carmel for a share of the league crown.
Yniguez was one of a handful of players in the league that were considered for M.V.P., as Pacific Grove and Stevenson finished a stone’s throw away from a share of the title — both were 6-4 and managed to beat St. Francis at the end of the year.
Carmel senior center Soana Laulotu was named the PCAL-Cypress Offensive Player of the Year, and King City senior guard Nancy Andrade earned Defensive Player of the Year honors despite the Mustangs’ 0-10 finish in league play.
“There was a bunch of really good, deserving players in our division,” Hazel said. “The fact that Janessa won M.V.P. only spoke about her importance to our team.”
Yniguez, a four-year member of the varsity team, averaged a team-high 17.4 points per game for the season, and eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for her career in the Sharks’ season-ending loss to Notre Dame-Salinas in the section semifinals.
She also earned a spot on the PCAL-Cypress First Team, and her teammate, senior center Tanya Gallo, was named to the division’s second team.