By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team will not only have their first competition of the 2015-16 season this weekend, Oct. 3, but it will also be their first official game in on their brand new home court at the performance gym in the university’s Center for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA). The Vikes women return seven players, while adding an island flavoured list of recruits.
“There is always excitement going into your first game and add on that it’s our first game in the new building and new gym there is obviously a lot of anticipation,” said Vikes women’s basketball head coach Dani Sinclair who enters her third season. “Our girls are really excited about the start of the new year. They have been practicing hard against each other for the last six weeks and we are all looking forward to seeing what that looks like against another team.”
Sinclair’s group of returnees will include Hamilton, Ont. natives Jenna Bugiardini and Amira Giannattasio. Both guards have previously been named Canada West Rookie of the Year with Bugiardini earning the nod in 2013 and Giannattasio winning last season in 2015. Both went on to be named to the CIS All-Rookie team in their respective first-year seasons.
“Jenna will be taking on a prominent leadership role for us on the court,” described Sinclair of the fourth year. “She’s done a lot for us over the years but this year she will have to bring even more. Of course, Amira will also be called upon to do much more for us even though she is only in second year.”
In addition, the Vikes will feature the return of six-foot-one Nicole Karstein. The fourth-year forward is one of three Vikes over six-feet and will add a lot of experience under the hoop. Fourth-year guardJenna Krug will also have increased responsibility with the graduation of last year’s stand-out guardsJessica Renfrew and Cassandra Goodis.
Hometown talent fills the freshman class as Claremont graduate Marissa Dheensaw will likely be a key addition, along side islanders Avery Snider and Morgan Roskelley.
“Marissa is very athletic and brings that defence-first mindset, which is what we really need,” added Sinclair about the five-foot-ten rookie forward. “She rebounds well, talks well and she is a really great competitor.”
The Vikes also gain Ontario native Katie Langdon who adds size to the team, standing at six-foot-one. The first-year forward has only been playing basketball for a few years but has proven a high basketball IQ and work ethic in pre-season training.
“We will always have the mindset of being the best we can be at whatever phase of the season it is,” outlined Sinclair on the official opening of the team’s pre-season. “We are still refining things and adding things and we trust that things will get better as the season goes on but this is for sure going to be a good first test.”
The Vikes have not played the UNBC Timberwolves since Jan. 17-18, 2014 when the Vikes won 79-69 and 67-54 in Prince George, B.C. Last season the Timberwolves finished at the bottom of the Explorer Division with a 1-9 record. The team was led by graduating senior Sarah Robin, while the second-highest scorer on the team Vasiliki Louka does return. The six-foot-three forward averaged 11.4 points per game last season and returns this season alongside a trio of fourth years – Nicole Boon, Emily Holmes and Eleni Steriopoulou.
“We don’t know a lot about UNBC as we haven’t seen them for a while,” added Sinclair. “They’ve graduated a lot of players, added a lot of players and brought in some internationals so there are lots of unknowns. What we do know is that when we did play against them they were aggressive and tough so we expect a battle for sure.”
The Vikes will aim to focus on their game in the weekend single header that will be sandwiched amongst six men’s basketball as part of the Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament and opening of the CARSA Performance Gym at the UVic campus.
“We will play a similar style as we have the last few years – up tempo,” concluded Sinclair. “We want to quicken the pace of the game and put pressure on the ball and create turnovers. I hope it’s exciting and we can have the opportunity to work on filling gaps that we have had in the last few years. We want to be better defensively in both guarding and rebounding the ball.”
The Vikes and Timberwolves will clash on Oct. 3 in Victoria at 5:00 p.m. pacific time.