By Ryan Laverty
There is no shadow of a doubt in Head Coach Shawnee Harle’s mind when she says, "We are going to be good."
The Dinos women’s basketball team will hit the hardwood in a few weeks to gear up for another tough season in the Canada West Conference. Harle is excited about the prospect of getting back to the national championship.
"There are three spots available at McMaster [host of 2001/02 and 2002/03 championships]," explained Harle. "And there are five teams that could threaten for those spots, including us."
The universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Regina and Winnipeg are all earmarked as potential contenders coming out of the west. And all have something in common with this year’s Dinos. All are missing the overwhelming presence of a key player. But none can truly be compared to the graduation of Leighann Doan from the Dinos’ front court.
"Obviously we are going to miss Leighann," replied Harle. "But I think it will make us stronger because teams won’t be able to key on one player. They’ll have to guard everyone, because we can hurt them from anywhere."
Fresh off her trip to Beijing, where she suited up with Doan and the rest of the Canadian University National team at the World University Games, is stalwart Jen Goldade. Goldade returns to the Jack this season to lead up the Dinos’ backcourt, where she’ll be counted on to take a leadership role if the team is to go as far as Harle feels they will. Laura Jablonski will also be counted on to step up her game and help fill the hole left by Doan. Her career has been solid while sporting the crimson, gold and black, but on a team as vertically challenged as this one will be, a breakout year by a current forward would be a welcome addition.
"We are definitely going to be a lot smaller this year, and teams will try to take advantage of that," coach Harle explained. "But, we are going to be a lot more athletic this year. We’re going to run, press and trap teams. We’re going to play up-tempo ball, and force the bigger teams to run with us."
In addition to this year’s returnee’s are four new faces, including a third Bekkering. Joining her cousins Anna and Cori, Alison Bekkering will add another dimension of size and athleticism to the team. Standing five foot ten, Bekkering also brings with her two years of post-secondary basketball experience having transferred from Kamloops, B.C.’s University College of the Caribou.
With the majority of last year’s national bronze medal team still intact, and strong off-season acquisitions and experiences, this team can all but book their flight to Hamilton.
As Harle watches over her team during a small workout, her confidence becomes evident.
"Yeah, we’re going to be real good."