It its relatively short history, Sunnyvale has had success in nearly every sport across the board.
But if there is one sport where the Raiders have enjoyed not just consistent winning, but doing so at a high level, it is in girls basketball.
Under head coach Jill McDill, Sunnyvale not only made the playoffs in its inaugural campaign in 2011, it won the district championship and advanced to the regional quarterfinals.
That year started a streak of 12 consecutive playoff appearances that continues as they head into the 2022-23 campaign.
Along the way, the Raiders have captured 10 district championships, including the last six in a row, advanced at least three rounds deep eight times and the pinnacle came in 2015, when Sunnyvale posted a 37-2 record and closed the season on a 34-game win streak that culminated with a 52-37 victory over Shallowater to capture the Class 3A state championship.
That sustained level of success comes with consistency at the top with McDill and the coaching staff, as well as a lineage of talented players who have come up through the system and elevated their game when it is their turn to shine.
Senior Micah Russell has been a key part of the team since she joined the varsity.
She earned district defensive player of the year for the second time last season, but did excelled on both sides of the court, averaging 17.7 points, 3.8 assists and 3.0 steals per game.
With the graduation of a couple of key players, Russell now adds senior leader to her list of responsibilities.
In this week’s student-athlete profile, Russell talks about being a part of the Sunnyvale program, her growth as a student-athlete and what we can expect from the Raiders this season.
SLM: Sunnyvale has a great winning tradition in girls basketball. Does that put any added pressure on you and your teammates, or is it an opportunity to add to that legacy?
MR: I think you could say it does put a lot of pressure on you and your teammates, but at the same time it’s a great opportunity to be a part of the winning legacy.
SLM: How have you grown as a player and as a person during the last four years?
MR: My freshman year I was extremely timid and was not very confident and it showed on the court. Now that I have gotten older and become more confident in myself I've found myself being more vocal and leading the team the way I feel I feel God has called me to lead it.
SLM: As a senior, you have younger players looking up to you. How would you describe yourself as a leader?
MR: I think I am the leader that the younger kids feel comfortable talking to. I'm more of a listener rather than a talker and I think it’s good for the younger kids to know they have someone who is willing to listen and be there for them, as well as encourage them and tell them what they might not want to hear but need to hear.
SLM: How would you describe yourself as a player?
MR: I think I am pretty confident as a player. I try to be unselfish on the court and give other players opportunities to shine, as well. We have a lot of great players on the team who are extremely talented.
SLM: How long have you been playing basketball and what got you into the sport?
MR: I started really playing basketball in the 7th grade. I started playing because I had quit playing tennis and just wanted something active to do. Once I started playing I fell in love with the game. The gym became my home away from home, and my peace when life gets stressful.
SLM: Have you played other sports in addition to basketball?
MR: Yes, I have played tennis and soccer
SLM: Who have been some of your biggest influences on your growth as a player?
MR: My granddad has been one of my biggest supporters. No matter what I need he is always there for me and has never complained. I am so blessed to have someone like him in my life. He is one of the reasons why I continue to play and grow as a player and a leader because I want to make him proud.
SLM: It is still very early in the season, but what is the team’s focus on during these first few weeks?
MR: Our focus is to get in shape and push ourselves as hard as we can so that we are ready when it really counts. Also, we want to focus on getting the small details right because that could be the determining factor and win us a tough game.
SLM: Looking long term, what are the goals and expectations for this team for the season?
MR: WE WANT TO WIN A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP!!! We will grow as a team in all aspects!!