Vancouver Island University’s women’s basketball team broke through to win a provincial championship last season. It was a special achievement – but it doesn’t count for a single point in the standings now that a new season has arrived.
“It’s a clean slate,” said Bill McWhinnie, Mariners coach. “Our team’s different, many of the teams in our league are different. We have nothing to defend – we’re pursuing a new [banner].”
The Mariners women opened the Pacific Western Athletic Association campaign last week with a 57-43 road win over the Camosun Chargers. The team showed encouraging signs, but also room for improvement, just as it would expect in early November.
“We can only get better,” said Jocelyn Jones, VIU guard.
Jones, the MVP of provincials last year, will again be a leader at both ends of the court. Much of the rest of the core is also back, including guard Heather McCarthy and forwards Shayna Worthington, Erin Vekic and Jenna Carver. Post player Alica Grossi and guard Jamie MacFarlane also return, but won’t be able to take the court until next semester.
Amanda Tapia, a guard who has transferred from the States, and local players Mariah Van Sickle and Taelar Keir are some of the newcomers.
The group is working well together so far, said Jones.
Even if they don’t view this season as a title defence, the Mariners have a boatload of experience to draw on in PacWest play.
“It helps a lot, because we know what to expect and we know what we need to do to be able to go out and compete,” Jones said.
If the Mariners get back to the big game at the end of the season, they’ll know how to handle it, said the coach.
That big game is a long ways off, but the Mariners know what they need to do in the meantime.
“If anything, they’re more focused than they’ve ever been,” McWhinnie said. “I think the experience of winning not only created a great off-season for us, but the girls put in more work than they ever have.
“Now they know what to expect, now they know what is sitting for them at the end if they are successful.”
GAME ON … The VIU women’s basketball team hosts the Columbia Bible College Bearcats on Friday (Nov. 8) at 6 p.m. at the VIU gym and host the Kwantlen Eagles Saturday at 1 p.m.