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Warrior sees better days ahead

Western senior Destiny Gonzalez can’t stand entering her school’s gymnasium, even though she practically lives inside.

It’s not because of the red and pastel blue colors on the wall, or the condition of the hardwood courts.

It’s the trophy case full of 1960s and 1970s titles — ancient relics for today’s students.

“Why can’t we have those?” Gonzalez says while peeking through an outdoor window.

Gonzalez, a three-sport athlete, is a glaring bright spot at one of the oldest and least competitive athletic schools in Southern Nevada.

Last season, Western failed to win a game in football and baseball and finished with eight wins combined in girls and boys basketball.

“There’s been this culture here like, ‘We’ve been losing so long,'” Western girls volleyball coach Norman Smith said. “It’s kind of a stopgap with some coaches. They’re here until they find a better opportunity, rather than putting in the time.”

Gonzalez, though, has been one of the school’s constants throughout the changes and lack of success.

She competes at a high level in volleyball, basketball and track and is arguably the school’s top athlete.

“She’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached,” Smith said. “Boys or girls. Period.”

Even with a 6-foot-2-inch frame, it’s her versatility and year-round participation that’s made her one of the most respected students at school.

As a sophomore, she even took a stab at varsity softball.

“Honestly, if there weren’t sports at Western, I probably wouldn’t be in school right now,” Gonzalez said. “Sports are my peace in life.”

Gonzalez, who also takes honors courses to keep busy, is hoping to lead the girls volleyball team to its first playoff appearance since 2001.

The Warriors finished 1-17 a year ago, but have started 4-4 this season and are one of eight teams competing for four Division I-A Sunset playoff spots.

And there’s no surprise as to who is leading the charge.

“There’s definitely a positive buzz and vibe around that program, and she’s the star,” Western girls track coach Robert Feller said. “She’s walking on campus with some confidence right now.”

Gonzalez isn’t just a volleyball star. She remains as good — if not better — on the basketball court and is looking to play either sport at the next level.

“If I do end up getting a scholarship in any sport, it’s rare because of the way Western is,” Gonzalez said. “I can be a role model to the lowerclassmen.”

While mostly seeing double- and triple-teams in basketball as a junior, Gonzalez averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks before earning second-team all-conference honors.

“I haven’t really seen her fail at anything,” Western girls basketball coach Chip Nelson said. “We’ve been down in football and other sports, so it’s nice to have somebody out there, giving others a little bit of hope. … When she has a bad game, it definitely affects everybody. They always look to her to step up and make sure everything is aligned.”

In the spring, Gonzalez said she plans on rejoining track and field after sitting out her junior season to give her body a rest. She will compete in the high jump and hurdles before finishing her high school career with a total of 11 varsity letters.

“Her natural ability lends her to be good at anything,” Feller said. “I haven’t had the opportunity to coach her the last two years, but she’s definitely progressed from her freshman year in terms of coachability and taking instruction. Her mindset is catching up with her athletic ability, so I can see this being a great year for her.”

Gonzalez might not be able to add any region or state memorabilia to that trophy case her senior season, but she understands that a strong foundation could set up lower classes for success.

And one day, when she returns to the school, she’ll be able to open those gymnasium doors and smile at the updated progress.

Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at aferguson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson

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