Steamboat Springs For Sailors coach Bruce Alston, the girls basketball team's record of 2-5 doesn't tell the whole story.
"Our win-lose record isn't impressive," he said. "As a team, we're getting better at things we need to get better at. One of our goals is to improve from week to week."
With one returning starter, senior guard Emily Hines, from last year's team, a fresh-faced group of Sailors started off the season with a win against West Grand. But the Sailors' luck would turn as they lost four consecutive games.
In the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, Steamboat's next win came against Aspen after losing 45-24 to St. Mary's. In the first round of the Steamboat Shoot-Out, Steamboat scored just four points in the first half against St. Mary's.
But the next night, Steamboat came out with a renewed sense of effort as the team beat Aspen 60-52.
"After not playing well against St. Mary's, we turned that around to win the next night against Aspen. We had a great effort. Now, (the Sailors) realize how they can play because of that game," Alston said. "Our play was so much better."
Helping the Sailors turn things around is their season leading scorer Hines, who finished the Steamboat tournament with 11.3 points per game.
"Emily Hines is the most consistent player. She's really solid on both sides of the court, defense and offense," Alston said.
The coach also looks to team leaders in top rebounder Bayli Stillwell, guard Jen Webber and point guard Anya Allen, who took honorable mentions in the Steamboat tournament.
As in the Aspen game, Alston said that if three of his players are on in one night, his team could be unstoppable.
"We are a good team, but we could lose to anybody," Alston said. "We could also beat anybody who plays in our league, but only if we give a total effort."
Alston is also happy with his bench play from Jessica Flores, Baily Draper and Tracey Lucas. A deep bench of nine has contributed to what Alston said is one of the strongest aspects to the Sailors' game a fast transition.
"We're strong when we run. We transition well, but it takes a lot of energy," he said.
After a 56-50 loss to Roaring Fork in the final round of the Steamboat tournament, Alston said his team's focus would be on rebounding when Steamboat returns from the Christmas break. The Sailors were outrebounded 38 to 25 by the Rams.
When the Sailors get back from break, they will face the top-ranked team in the league, the Moffat County Bulldogs, whom they play Jan. 11.
During their break, the Sailors will get the chance to have open gym practices without Alston, who under CHSAA rules is prohibited from coming in contact with his team during the holiday break. While Alston said the break will give his team a chance to rest, he also admits it halts the momentum building through the preseason.
"It is a challenge," Alston said. "They might not be mentally ready to play, emotionally charged up and ready to play. That's my biggest fear."