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Senior guard Sierra Bautista returns to lead the Bulldogs, but the team expects to go through some growing pains.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Culver senior Sierra Bautista will be one of the few upperclass players on the Bulldog roster this season. Head coach TJ Foltz hopes to have aother senior, Tegan Macy, back from injury by the time league play begins.After two straight years without a league win, the Culver girls basketball is looking to get back to its winning ways this season.

The Bulldogs are coming off a rough spring outing in which the team went 0-10 overall and 0-7 in Tri-River play. The year prior, Culver went 0-14 in the TRC and 2-21 overall.

Success has been hard to come by in recent years, and third-year head coach TJ Foltz says that it may take time for his team to gel.

"We're really young," said Foltz. "If we started a game tomorrow, we'd have one senior starter and the rest would be underclassmen.

"It's going to be really interesting to see how these first few weeks play out."

That senior in the starting lineup will be Sierra Bautista, one of the team's leading scorers from a year ago and a veteran presence to the young Bulldogs.

Foltz's original plan was to feature Bautista alongside fellow senior Tegan Macy, but Macy picked up an injury that will cost her at least the first month of the season, according to the coach. It was a stroke of bad luck that turned the season on its ear before it even started.

That means that an already-young team gets even younger. Foltz has been impressed with what he has seen from his freshman class, but noted that team camaraderie is still in its infancy this season.

"We're still learning to mesh together," said Foltz on getting his young team to sync up. "Trying to learn that we're all one big team and not just a bunch of individuals or groups. My motto is 'We're one big family.' We spend more time with each other than we do with our own families. We have to learn to coexist all the time."

Those issues should smooth out over time, though, as players get to know each other and grow more comfortable playing as a unit.

When the Bulldogs do take the court, Foltz says the team will play an up-tempo brand of basketball. He noted that his style is dictated by the players he has on the roster.

"This group of girls right here, I really see us going back to that up-tempo, in-your-face style," said the coach, noting the team played more zone last season. "That's how I was taught to play basketball, and that's the way I like to teach people how to play."

The coach noted that the Tri-River Conference is not the easiest league for a young team still finding its footing. He mentioned that the conference often has three teams in the top 15 of the 2A classification.

At the end of the day, Foltz says that he is less concerned with wins and more focused on preparing his athletes to be responsible, respectful adults in the future.

"The things I hope to instill in them is to teach them life lessons that they can take away from here. Basketball is only four months. They still have the other eight months."

Culver's season begins with against Mannahouse Christian Academy on Friday, Dec. 3 at Sherman County High School. The Lions were just 2-8 last year, giving the Bulldogs a decent shot at a win in the opener.

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