Vikes campaign trending up after a slow start to the season

Sports Sports | Lifestyle

The UVic women’s basketball team got off to a hot start on opening weekend, but returned home on the heels of a loss after faltering to old foes Regina.

The start was encouraging however, considering the question marks surrounding the roster coming into the season. 2012-13 seniors Chelsea McMullen, who led the team in offensive rebounds, and Debbie Yeboah, scoring and rebounds leader, both finished their eligibility last season, leaving a massive gap to be filled at both ends of the floor.

In the Vikes 2013 season opener against the Brandon Bobcats, it was one of the new veterans who stepped in to fill both roles. Fourth-year forward Sarah Semeniuk recorded a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. She also had the contest’s lone block. Brandon managed to sink the first bucket of the game, but it was all Vikes after that as they exploded to a 23-point halftime lead. The lead increased to as much as 32 in the final quarter, with UVic ultimately prevailing 83-65.

After delivering the expected win, the Vikes headed to Saskatchewan to take on the powerhouse Regina Cougars. Fresh off a second-place finish in the country last season, Regina made easy work of the Vikes to cap an unbeaten opening weekend for the Cougars. Though the lopsided 85-64 score line won’t show it, the Vikes found themselves in command throughout the first quarter. They held a 21-13 lead after one, but turnovers and Cougar dominance in the paint swung the game in Regina’s favour by the half. The Regina bench put the game away in the third, leaving UVic unable to avenge their Canada West playoff exit at the hands of the Cougars last season.

Fourth year Cassandra Goodis had a strong game for the Vikes, notching her own double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Along with Semeniuk and fellow fourth-year Jessica Renfrew, who had a strong 13-point performance against Brandon, this trio of leaders will need to deliver consistently for UVic in order to hang with the stronger teams in the conference.

The Vikes returned home to the friendly confines of MacKinnon Gym for the weekend of Nov. 8–9, where the team enjoyed a dominant 9-2 record last season. They were in for a rude awakening, however, as the powerhouse Fraser Valley Cascades delivered a pair of commanding performances to sweep the doubleheader. UVic found themselves outmatched early in their home opener, trailing by 10 after the first quarter en route to a 68-55 defeat. The Vikes kept it close going into halftime in the rematch, but saw the game slip away after the break to fall 77-61.  The Cascades were led by Sarah Wierks, who had 40 points over the two games. For the Vikes, Renfrew led the way, putting up team highs in points with 18 and 14.

Now sporting an unenviable 1-3 record, the Vikes were back on the road Nov. 15–16 to take on the UBC Okanagan Heat in Kelowna. The matchup turned out to be the perfect medicine to snap UVic’s three-game slump, as they rolled over the Heat 89-75 before dispatching them 68-45 the following night. The road trip saw Renfrew establish herself as the go-to attacking option for the Vikes, scoring 19 and 15 to run her team high-points streak to four games. Second-year forward Jenna Bugiardini was a force in the paint, grabbing game highs in rebounds with eight and seven.

“She runs the floor really well, and she’s been shooting the ball really well,” said head coach Dani Sinclair of Renfrew’s play. “She’s a great shooter and she’s knocking them down.”

Much of the Vikes’ success early on can be attributed to their three-point shooting; UVic is shooting a Canada West best .415 per cent from beyond the perimeter. Their long-distance dominance sees four Vikes in the top eight in individual three-point percentage, led by guard Shaylyn Crisp shooting .636 per cent.

“We’re doing a good job of getting the ball into our post, and then kicking the ball out,” Sinclair elaborated, on the team’s success. “It’s also driving and dribble penetration, drawing defenses in, then kicking out.”

Having worked their way up to the .500 mark, UVic now returns home carrying the momentum from a strong road trip. On Nov. 22, the Vikes match up against fellow 3-3 squad Manitoba Bisons, while the Nov. 23 game has the 4-2 Winnipeg Wesmen coming to town.

Despite the strong competition, Sinclair is confident ahead of the upcoming matchups. “These split weekends with teams are always tough, and both of these teams are extremely tough. The key is going to be to play good defense, contain the ball, and then win the rebounding battle.”