Discipline and perspective will drive Newcastle Eagles’ playoff ambitions this season as head coach Noelia Cacheiro bids to bring the best out of a remodelled roster.
The new face at the helm of Tyneside’s top flight women’s basketball team finally gets to taste homecourt action this weekend — five weeks after landing her dream job.
And Cacheiro is convinced a talented but short-handed side can carve out a new identity in time to play a key role in the post-season party.
“Newcastle have built a reputation as the underdog always capable of upsetting the bigger teams,” said the ambitious Spaniard ahead of Saturday’s Vertu Motors Arena clash with Sheffield Hatters.
“I’d like to see if that can still be the case.
“We’re still short on numbers and in my first month in charge I’ve still not been able to get the full squad together at practice.
“It’s frustrating for all of us that injuries, illness and work commitments have hampered our progress so far.
“But there are still 13 regular season games to play and a lot of things can happen between now and the end of April.
“We’re looking at the bigger picture here and trying to make the playoffs is just part of what we’re trying to achieve in the long term.
“We need to consider how we can continue to build the women’s basketball programme in Newcastle and how it can be successful and sustainable.
“Maintaining discipline and perspective is key right now.”
Cacheiro has had a tough start to life as Eagles coach — losing the WBBL Cup final to big-spending London Lions in January and suffering a frustrating defeat at Essex last weekend.
But Newcastle’s no-nonsense playcaller always knew her latest move would pose a significant challenge.
And the former Team Northumbria guard is determined to make her presence felt in a region that’s always been close to her heart.
“Newcastle is my second home and I’m driven by a keen sense of community,” added Cacheiro.
“The North East is the place where I’ve spent the longest time outside of Spain and I want to play a part in developing basketball here.
“I’ve played basketball for Northumbria University and now I coach the first team at Newcastle University.
“I want to see both universities work more closely together to develop women’s basketball players in the region and underpin what we’re trying to do with the WBBL team at the Eagles.
“I’m very much settled on Tyneside and I’ve committed my future to a city I love. Accepting the role as Newcastle’s WBBL coach seemed like the right move at the right time.”
Cacheiro lectures in translation and interpreting studies at Newcastle University after achieving a PhD in philosophy last year.
The modern languages graduate has coached the university’s women’s basketball first team for the last three years.
And Cacheiro’s association with North East hoops stretches back as far as 2008 when she was part of Deirdre Hayes’ Northumbria roster.
“Basketball’s in my blood and I’ve been playing since I was 12,” she explained. “I grew up in the Galicia region of Spain and started out playing in my home city of Ourense.
“From an early age I was playing alongside girls older than me and then I was offered the opportunity to play overseas.
“I represented Northumbria University and Durham University and spent four years at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma.
“I do miss getting out on court but I’ve always coached and that’s where I see my future now.
“I want to put together the best team I can for Newcastle Eagles and help create a pathway that gives the right players at the right level an opportunity to play WBBL basketball.”
Tickets for this Saturday’s northern WBBL clash are on sale from the box office with a pre-game coaching clinic taking place for young female players before the game.