VIU Mariners player Kaitlyn LaFontaine moves the ball up the court at practice Tuesday at the Vancouver Island University gym.

VIU Mariners player Kaitlyn LaFontaine moves the ball up the court at practice Tuesday at the Vancouver Island University gym.

VIU women add local talent

NANAIMO – Mariners basketball program tips off PacWest season this Friday (Oct. 30) against Camosun Chargers.

The VIU Mariners played as hard as anyone last spring at nationals, and it wasn’t quite enough.

They recognized they needed more scoring, athleticism and size, said coach Bill McWhinnie, and they were able to address all of those needs.

“We’ve improved in areas where we needed the improvement, and we’ve just gotten stronger in areas that we were already strong in,” said Ally Keir, M’s guard.

Notably, guard Lanae Adams joins the Mariners from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, an NCAA Div. 1 program. Two other high-profile transfers are Nanaimo players Sara Simovic, a guard, and Victoria Brown, a forward.

They complement a core led by guard Jamie MacFarlane and forward Sienna Pollard. Forward Emily Clarke is another starter.

“We have a lot of strong individuals and it was a little worrisome coming in if we would click together, but we seem to read each other pretty well on the court,” Keir said.

McWhinnie said the group is coming along slowly, but steadily, and Keir said the style of basketball will feature a lot of motion and not much standing still.

“We’re going to look to push the basketball,” the coach said. “We’ve got a lot of kids that can score and hopefully we’re going to be sharing the basketball. But it’s also a work in progress.”

VIU’s women’s basketball program benefited in a few different ways from hosting nationals last year. It provided experience and inspiration, and also perspective.

“[We know] what to expect and where we need to be … As long as we’re playing our best basketball in February, early March, that’s all that matters,” McWhinnie said. “These games here, they’re all games we’d like to win, but we just want to keep getting better.”

GAME ON … The Mariners tip off the Pacific Western Athletic Association season against the Camosun Chargers on Friday (Oct. 30) at 6 p.m. at the VIU gym.

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