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By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications

October 11, 2012, VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team are starting their pre-season with a dry run of their home opening weekend. The Vikes will host UBC-Okanagan in a double header on Oct. 12-13 at McKinnon Gym as the first real exhibition match up before they face the heat in similar fashion for Canada West play on Nov. 2-3.

In 2011-12, the Vikes went 8-10 under first-year head coach Rich Chambers and finished fifth in the Pacific Division of the Canada West. The Vikes graduated six-foot-two forward Natalie Janssens (Surrey, B.C.) and will also be without six-foot-two forward Sarah Semeniuk (Fruitvale, BC) due to injury.

With head coach Chambers away for the season for personal circumstances, associate coach and 2011-12 assistant coach Dani Sinclair will head the team along side former UBC-Thunderbird and team Canada stand out Leanne Evans.

“We have a great mix of both young and experienced players this year,” said Sinclair about the Vikes roster that boasts five talented freshmen. “We have a good core of players that are returning from a disappointing season last year. They are back and really prepared to compete.

The Vikes women are largely lead by fifth-year players Debbie Yeboah (Winnipeg, MB) and Chelsea McMullen (Prince George, B.C.). Yeboah was sixth in the conference in scoring in 2011-12 with a 14.8 PPG average and a total of 267 points in 18 games played. McMullen, a regular starter for the Vikes, lead the Vikes in shooting percentage in 2011-12 with 48.7 per cent, the sixth best percentage in the conference. Also returning for their third-year are guard Cassandra Goodis (Penticton, BC) and Jessica Renfrew(Victoria, BC), who were both regular starters in 2011-12 and are expected to provide good two-way play on the court and leadership for the five-member class of rookies.

Leading the way for the freshmen class is Jenna Bugiardini (Hamilton, ON), a five-foot-eleven forward from Hamilton, Ont. Bugiardini played rep-level basketball for the Hamilton Transway club for nine years, winning two provincial gold medals and one Eastern Canadian championship. Combined with first-year Vike Kristen Monasterski(Marwayne, AB), of Marwayne, Alta., the pair will likely weigh in on one of the starting spots for the season. Monasterski, who is in her fourth-year of eligibility, will miss out of the pre-season exhibition games against UBC-Okanagan due to injury.

Also joining the Vikes this season are six-foot-one forward Nicole Karstein, of Kamloops, B.C., who was given MVP honours in 2011 at the West Zone Champions with Sa-Hali Secondary school, as well as North Vancouver’s Jenna Krug, who contributes a speedy two-way dynamic on the floor. Other rookies on the team include Ashley McGinnis, of Oliver B.C. and Tessla Rennie, of Red Lodge, Montana.

The Vikes will also have large contributions from returning players Jenny Lewis, Shaylyn Crisp, and Jordyn Newman, who all return for their second season in blue and gold.

The Vikes will take on the UBC-Okanagan Heat in a double header as the start of their three-week pre-season campaign to their Canada West home opening weekend, also against the Heat. UBC-Okanagan enters their second season as members of the Canada West and went 2-16 last year. For 2012-13, the Heat return the majority of their squad including leading scorers and fifth-year players Roslyn Huber and Madison Kaneda.

The exhibition games will take place at McKinnon Gym on Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. and Oct. 13 at 5 p.m. The home openers between the Vikes and Heat will begin Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. and Nov. 3 at 5 p.m., also at McKinnon Gym. All games will be broadcast live at http://uvic.canadawest.tv 

Ticket Information: govikesgo.com/tickets