Girls Basketball: Transfer student Dana Goularte making a big impact at South Kitsap

Free agency does not exist in high school.

Instead, coaches hope for significant development in the offseason and a sophomore or two that can make an impact.

South Kitsap’s girls basketball team received some of that as it opened its season with an 8-0 record — its best start in more than a decade.

But a significant part of the strong start has come from 5-foot-11 wing Dana Goularte, a junior transfer from Life Christian Academy in Tacoma. Goularte is second on the team averaging 13.6 points per game, but her greatest impact might be on the defensive end. She averages 9.5 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game.

The latter number is not a misprint. Goularte is the basketball equivalent of an aggressive base stealer. Any time she sees an opportunity to poke the ball away from an offensive player, Goularte takes the chance.

It is a risk and reward system — particularly on the perimeter.

“It’s all about quickness and anticipation,” she said. “You have to be a step ahead of everyone else. If you’re on that night, take as many risks as you can.”

Goularte has stolen the ball several times out there, which often have led to uncontested layups. But missed opportunities have resulted in additional fouls and sometimes have given the opposition five-on-four situations when Goularte has over-pursued.

“Sometimes I get burnt going after a steal,” she said.

But South coach Mark Lutzenhiser is willing to accept that in a defensive system that often extends and pressures opponents.

“She has some abilities that are very hard to teach and coach,” he said. “She has a knack for sensing what another player can do at times. Sometimes I’m looking one way and she’s already stolen the ball.”

Goularte’s addition has helped the Wolves, who finished 15-13 and advanced to the state tournament last season for the first time since 2000, overcome several losses. Only point guard Kelsey Callaghan, forward Danielle Stewart and wing Molly Werder returned from that team.

“The chemistry part is really important,” Lutzenhiser said. “She gets along really well with the rest of the team. She’s got a wonderful personality.”

Goularte said she transferred because her brother, Michael, is a sophomore at Washington State University, which essentially put her parents in the position of “paying for two colleges. I just thought it was better for my parents financially to send me here.”

As far as culture shock is concerned, it might as well have been the difference between high school and college. According to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s latest numbers, South's student body stands at 2,335 students between 10th and 12th grade — Life Christian has 157.

“I was really nervous coming here,” Goularte said. “I wondered if I would be able to step my game up.”

Even with her soccer commitments — she plays for Harbor FC and was a centerback as South reached the Class 4A state tournament — Lutzenhiser said Goularte was able to practice part time with the team during the summer.

“What you see is what you get with her, and the kids and coaching staff enjoy that,” he said. “She’s got a great attitude and outlook.”

Lutzenhiser, who coached at Bellingham, Wenatchee, Issaquah and Sequim before becoming the coach at South last season, said Goularte is the first transfer student he has had to come in and contribute during his career.

He said that has been significant for a team that has been plagued by injuries. Werder, a senior who averaged a team-best 10.2 points per game last season, is out indefinitely with a knee ailment. Another player who was projected to start, sophomore guard Jackie Steiger, has not played this season because of a foot injury and Lutzenhiser is not sure if she will return by the end of the season. And sophomore forward Taylor Sunkel likely will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on her left shoulder.

Goularte might join them in the operating room someday — as an anesthesiologist. Both of her parents work at the St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. She hopes to parlay a basketball scholarship into studying that field in college.

Lutzenhiser has no doubt that Goularte can achieve her goals if she continues working toward them. He said her combination of athleticism and size could allow Goularte to “play at a lot of different levels” collegiately.

For now, Goularte is just focused on basketball season. She wants to help the Wolves return to state for a second consecutive season and win their first Narrows League Bridge Division title since 2000-01.

“I feel like we have so much potential,” she said. “We have a good future ahead of us. I’m really excited to see what happens.”

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