VIU’s women’s basketball team is off to an undefeated start to the season as it makes its way toward national championships.
The Vancouver Island University Mariners women’s b-ball team won two more home games at the VIU gym on Friday and Saturday, defeating the Capilano Blues by scores of 70-48 and then 69-58.
VIU (6-0) improved its record atop the PacWest as it builds a fall foundation in advance of hosting Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships at the end of winter.
The Mariners women were supposed to host nationals in March 2020, but the pandemic caused the last-minute cancellation of that event. Then the 2020-21 season was cancelled too before basketball finally came back for 2021-22.
“They flipped [hosting nationals] back to us which was a class move by the CCAA. It was the right move, but I thank them for it,” said Tony Bryce, VIU coach. “I think we deserve to host; we lost the opportunity.”
Some veterans return from two seasons ago, but really, it’s a new team, the coach said.
“What we were two years ago is a very different team from what we are now. Now it’s all about this group and this process,” Bryce said. “I think this group’s really going to come together and that’s our goal by the end of February.”
He said as a coach he approaches every season with the goal of putting together a national championship-calibre roster, but said there’s “a little bit more pressure” to make sure the team will be able to play with the best college opponents in the country in March.
Newcomer Chloe Scaber said even at this stage of the season, nationals are a motivator, and if the Mariners are slow or sloppy in practice, they talk about needing to be in a nationals frame of mind.
“When we do have those talks it really helps us, it gets us back on track,” she said. “All of us are so passionate about basketball and we’re so excited to get to play in that championship that it definitely has an effect.”
She said the team has been practising hard and it’s showing up in a variety of ways – the defence is reliable, players are settling into their roles, chemistry and balance are building and the bench energy is always there. The Mariners are staying composed even if they’re having an “off day,” she said, which will help them throughout the season.
Though the VIU women have won all their games so far, they expect to be tested in the PacWest as every team is playing with a noticeable excitement that basketball is back.
“Seeing other players that are just as good as you and want it just as bad as you, it’s been an amazing opportunity to get back on the court and it’s something that I will never take for granted again,” Scaber said.
Bryce said coaches and players are thankful to be able to be around each other, to coach and play the game they love and to do it in front of people cheering them on.
“There’s a different level of appreciation now for what we get to do and we’re going to cherish that every day,” he said.
In Friday’s game, Scaber led VIU with 17 points, Shayce Johnston had 11 points and 11 rebounds, Amber Lease had 11 points and eight assists and Kiara Johnston hauled down 14 rebounds. On Saturday, Scaber again led VIU with 16 points, C.J. Buckley scored 14, Kiara Johnston had 13 rebounds and Lease had 12 points and seven assists.
GAME ON … VIU’s basketball teams scheduled to be on the road Nov. 26-27 to face the Columbia Bible College Bearcats. There are no more regular-season home games until the new year.