Basketball Mariners built to contend

Vancouver Island University’s women’s basketball team will be going to nationals no matter what.

VIU Mariners guard Jamie MacFarlane puts up a shot during practice Tuesday night at the Vancouver Island University gym.

VIU Mariners guard Jamie MacFarlane puts up a shot during practice Tuesday night at the Vancouver Island University gym.

Basketball season has only just tipped off, and the VIU Mariners already know how it’s going to end.

Vancouver Island University’s women’s basketball team will be going to nationals no matter what – it’s got a host berth – so from now until then, there’s a process of ensuring that the Mariners belong.

“We know that we’re going to be playing in late March; we want to be playing our best basketball at that point,” said Bill McWhinnie, M’s coach. “So that’s all we’re doing day by day is just trying to get better.”

The journey started last Thursday with VIU’s season opener, a 53-49 home win over the Camosun Chargers.

“We were in trouble and we got out of it … I think we did very well,” said Jamie MacFarlane, veteran guard.

The coach liked the way the Mariners made big plays down the stretch and said it’s a confidence builder for players to succeed in those sorts of situations.

“We had highs and lows all throughout that game and it really tested us,” said Jenna Carver, veteran forward. “Ending up with a win really shows what we’re made of.”

The makeup of the Mariners is quite different from last year with key starters moving on, including two of the top scorers in the Pacific Western Athletic Association.

“It’s a brand-new team, new everything. Teams don’t know what to expect from us, which I think is a good thing,” Carver said.

Forward Sienna Pollard from Auburn, Wash., is a high-scoring newcomer and freshman guard Emily Clarke will be an immediate contributor. The coach will be looking to veterans like MacFarlane, Carver and point guard Amanda Tapia for big seasons.

“Instead of having a 20-point scorer and a 17-point scorer, we might have four 10-point scorers, and that’s fine,” McWhinnie said. “We have talent, it’s just going to take time to get this talent playing together.”

The nationals-bound Mariners know they have a rare opportunity in front of them this season, but at this stage of the season, it still seems far away. There is a lot of basketball, first, that they’re looking forward to playing.

“We’re just focused on our games ahead, the next game, and when we get there, we get there,” MacFarlane said.

GAME ON … VIU’s women’s and men’s basketball teams play road games Friday (Nov. 7) and Saturday against the Douglas Royals and Langara Falcons, respectively.

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