UVic Vikes basketball hopes to build off playoff appearances for success

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Tip off is under a month away for the UVic Vikes men’s and women’s basketball seasons, with both sides looking to follow up on last season’s playoff appearances.

Men’s team
The Vikes men enjoyed a stellar run last season, which saw them go all the way to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Final Eight Championship in Ottawa. Tournament seeding was not in their fortune, however, as they were drawn against perennial powerhouse Carleton Ravens for the first round. Carleton, who has dominated the Canadian basketball landscape over the past decade, easily defeated UVic en route to their ninth national title in the last 11 years.

While any thoughts of a championship run would likely mean going through Carleton, for now, the Vikes are focused on the Canada West division, where they are coming off a second place finish. The team got off to a strong start last season with four wins in a row, and will be hoping for similar results next month to spark their campaign.

UVic returns with much of the same roster from last season’s run; however they will notably be without guard Michael Acheampong. Acheampong, who played his fifth and final year of eligibility last season, was team leader in three-point scoring, as well as second in overall scoring, with 12.2 points per game. Pierce Anderson also departs the team, coming second overall in blocks during his senior year.

The Vikes still have their star forward Terrell Evans, however, who enters his senior year looking to make his biggest impact yet. It will be hard for the versatile guard/forward to top his 2012-13 accomplishments with the team, in which he led in scoring, field goals made, offensive rebounds and steals, as well as being named a Canada West Second Team All-Star. The Las Vegas native and Social Sciences major will no doubt once again be the driving force of the Vikes’ offense this season as he goes for his last shot at a title.

Evans has a variety of personal and team goals for his final season on the UVic court.

“Just having another great season, even better than last year,” says Evans, who is aiming for a First Team All-Star selection, as well as the lofty goal of CIS All-Canadian.

He is sure to stress, however, that team success comes above all else.

“Lead the team as far as we can,” Evans says of this year’s campaign. “As far as winning the conference championship, getting back to Nationals and hopefully winning a national championship.”

Forward Ryan Erikson also enters his final year with the Vikes. Erikson was a strong shooter last season, coming fifth on the team with a .409 field goal percent. Fourth year Chris McLaughlin is expected to hold things down at the centre position, where he led the Vikes in rebounds and blocked shots.

At the helm is the veteran Craig Beaucamp, who enters his 11th season coaching UVic. Like he has for the past decade, Beaucamp will embrace a strong defense as the key to winning, as well as being vocal on the sidelines.

The Vikes will play a pair of tournaments in October to warm up, before their Canada West season officially kicks off with a road trip against the Brandon Bobcats and Regina Cougars on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.

Women’s team
The Vikes women’s team rode a strong end to last season into the playoffs, winning five of their final six games. Though they were bounced by the Regina Cougars in the Canada West playoffs, the Vikes should expect to be back in the playoffs as they seek to make the CIS Final Eight in Windsor, Ontario.

There is going to be an obvious absence in the loss of guard Debbie Yeboah, after the Academic All-Canadian played her final season last year. Yeboah led the team in scoring and rebounding. Her stats as well as positive bench presence will be sorely missed.

Chelsea McMullen is the other senior to hang up her sneakers after a final season with UVic in which she was third in scoring and led the team in offensive rebounds. McMullen was a dominating force down low, and it will take some work on the Vikes’ part to maintain that success in the paint with her gone.

“Obviously it’s a big loss, but that’s part of university sport,” Sinclair said about the women’s departure. She believes the team is more than ready to adapt and succeed, however. “We’ve prepared ourselves by bringing in some good young players. We also have girls who are moving into their third, fourth and fifth years who are stepping up to be leaders.

Much of the scoring load will now fall on fourth-year forward Jessica Renfrew. Renfrew looks ready for the task, as she was second in team scoring last season and shot an astounding .500 per cent in field goals. Fellow fourth year Cassandra Goodis is likely to be Renfrew’s main scoring partner on the court. The guard will look to build on her impressive play from last season, in which she was the team leader in assists and steals.

Dani Sinclair enters her sophomore season as Vikes head coach. Sinclair played for UVic during her college career. Though fairly new at the job, she has already shown the leadership and basketball knowledge to put together a successful season.

“At this point of the year, we’re just building and preparing for the season,” said Sinclair of the upcoming month ahead. “It’s always our goal to win a championship, but we’re not looking too far ahead at this point.”

Sinclair does have high hopes for the girls come playoff time though. “Last year was successful in some respects because we made playoffs again, but we’d like to move on past that first round. This program hasn’t qualified for the national championship tournament in a long time, so that’s a big goal of ours.”

The women host the UVic Invitational in October, along with three pre-season matchups before their season gets underway. They follow the same schedule as the men to kick things off, with games in Brandon and Regina at the beginning of November.