When Magdalena coach Sara Sue Olney shed her volleyball duties to concentrate on basketball, it was about taking her team to the next level, and with an 8-2 record, the Steers are off to a start that’s surprising local fans.

“I can see where people are coming from because we haven’t been the team that sticks it out all the way through,” Olney said. “Yesterday, we lost by three (53-50 2A Laguna Acoma) when we were once down by 12. If that had been a previous team, that 12 would have gotten to 22 fast, but we’re improving. We’re learning things, and we’re learning our abilities. We’re realizing and believing in ourselves to where we feel like we belong just as much at the top as anybody else.”

The Steers’ only other loss came against No. 1 3A Tohatchi, and Magdalena has wins against 3A Hot Springs, Socorro, and 4A Grants. Taking the next step hasn’t been as about physicality and athleticism as it’s been about reforming the Steers’ mental attitude.

“The belief the girls have in each other this year is awesome. It’s great to see. I think you can see it on the court. I think you can see it on the bench. It’s just the family and the team the girls have created this year is a huge difference,” Olney said. “I tell people all the time. If you’re not a team, I don’t care how good you are — it’s hard to win. I don’t know if we’re the best team we need to be, but we are a team, and that’s what’s helping.”

Magdalena went 13-15 last season and sneaked into the playoffs before bowing out in the first round against Roy/ Mosquero.

This year, the Steers face might be in the most competitive district in New Mexico High School basketball, with 1A District 2 teams all sports a winning record with Animas 5-3, Mesilla 5-2, Cliff 6-0, Reserve 4-2, Quemado 7-2 all looking to take the league title.

“Right now, our focus is on getting better with each game. The object of a tournament like this (Grants), especially with a bunch of big schools, is to get better every game and to win games that people probably don’t think you should win. So, as long as we’re competing and getting better each day, the outcome should be what we want it to be or as close to it as possible,” Olney said.

The 2023 Magdalena Steers roster includes Aliza Apache, Jema Ganadonegro, Summer Anderson, Lanisha Vicente, Elia Cleveland, Nikole Torres, Kambree Montoya, Winona Apachito, Jorianne Mirabal, Falene Montoya, Oliviah Clark and Jewel Mirabal.