By Jamie Umbach, Vikes Communications
With the departure of veterans Jessica Renfrew and Cassandra Goodis in 2014-15, the University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team would be reliant on a core group of players that included Jenna Bugiardini, Amira Giannattasio, Jenna Krug and Kristy Gallagher for the 2015-16 Canada West season. A fresh crop of recruits that included Marissa Dheensaw, Brittani Yee and Katie Langdonjoined the Vikes program while head coach Dani Sinclair began her third full year with the program alongside assistant coaches Leanne Evans and Brett Westcott.
The Vikes would also need to adjust to their new physical surroundings in 2015-16. A new facility in the CARSA Performance Gym meant new possibilities for the program as the team prepared for its first full season in the state-of-the-art athletic facility after bringing the McKinnon era to an end last season.
The Vikes began the CARSA era off positively with an 80-67 win over the UNBC Timberwolves in their first game on its floors on Oct. 3. From there, the Vikes travelled to Montreal, Que. to continue their preseason with the Red Bird Classic. Their first game of the tournament was an 84-66 loss to McGill, but the team rebounded with 80-59 and 87-81 wins over Wilfrid Laurier and Thompson Rivers, respectively. The Vikes wrapped up exhibition play at home, winning two games over Western and MacEwan and losing two to Ryerson and Thompson Rivers.
After splitting their opening series on the road against Trinity Western, the Vikes fell into a slump that included four straight losses to the Saskatchewan Huskies and Calgary Dinos. However, Sinclair’s side finished off November positively and entered the December Canada West break with 77-56 and 85-55 wins in Lethbridge over the Pronghorns on Nov. 27-28.
Near the end of the calendar year, the Vikes swept the Toronto Invitational from Dec. 28-30 with victories over Laurentian, Western and Toronto and then carried that momentum back to the Canada West by sweeping the Manitoba Bisons on Jan. 8-9 in their return to regular season action. However, that momentum would be stopped short after four straight losses on the road to the Alberta Pandas and Winnipeg Wesmen.
The Pioneer Division standings were packed so tightly entering the final weekend of the Canada West regular season that four teams were in contention for the final three spots, including a home berth to the Canada West Play-In Series for whoever finished fifth. The Vikes beat Brandon in a home sweep to clinch the fifth spot and hosting rights to CARSA’s first-ever playoff games. The Vikes took advantage of the opportunity, beating Trinity Western 2-1 in a best-of-three series to book their ticket to Edmonton to face MacEwan in the Canada West Quarter-Finals.
The Griffins proved to be a stern opponent and downed the Vikes 2-0 in the best-of-three series, thus ending their season short of the Canada West Final Four. With every player eligible to return to the line-up in 2016-17, the Vikes set their sights on hosting next year’s 2017 CIS Women’s Basketball Championship at the CARSA Performance Gym.
Canada West Record: 9-11 (5th, Pioneer)
Canada West Playoffs: 2-4 (Lost in Canada West Quarter-Finals)
Last CIS title: 2003
Last Canada West title: 2001
2015-16 AWARD WINNERS:
Canada West Second Team All-Star: Jenna Bugiardini
2014-15 VIKES HONOUR ROLL:
Jenna Bugiardini, Jenna Krug, Jessica Renfrew, Marisa Harrington, Emily Jentsch