Victory has become old hat for the Dinos.
The University of Calgary Dinos women's basketball team returned home victors again Sun., Jan. 28, fresh from trouncing two of the Pacific division's favourite trouncees on the weekend. The Dinos (11-7) dunked the University College of Fraser Valley Cascades (8-12) 93-72 Fri., Jan. 26 and then traveled four hours to Kelowna to embarrass the Thompson Rivers Wolf Pack (2-18) with a 99-70 beating Sat., Jan. 27.
The Dinos' road record now improves to 5-5 on the back of five straight road wins, a streak which began with an 84-81 win over the University of Saskatchewan Huskies back on Dec. 2. But the women b-ballasaurs are not just winning on the road. Calgary has terrorized their opponents lately, outscoring them by an average of 30 points in their last six straight wins. These wonder women are no stranger to long winning streaks though.
"That's kind of the way it's been [for the last two seasons]," observed a breathless Jamie Morck, who had just finished a healthy half hour of wind sprints, pushups and some excruciating exercise appropriately named 'foot fire.' "We suck at the beginning of the year, and then we turn it on towards the end of the year. I think that we won 12 [in a row] last year. It was a huge winning streak."
Morck is referring to last year's team, who started out 0-4, but went on to win their next 12 games, and 19 of their last 24. Although six Dinos have returned from last year's streaky squad, they are missing the services of offensive star Tanya Hautala, who led Calgary's number one attack and finished third overall in league scoring. The loss of such a talent could have decimated the Dinos' offence, but that has not been the case. The Dinos have built the third best offence in the conference, pouring in an average of 79.4 points per game.
"I think as a team we're better--we don't have a superstar, but we beat [teams like Saskatchewan and Winnipeg] by containing their two [best offensive] players," said Morck, referring chiefly to Winnipeg's scoring machine Uzo Asagwara (first in league scoring) and Saskatchewan's MVP Sarah Crooks (second in league scoring, first in rebounds). "Besides, a lot of the time those players can't play defence."
Ouch. Well, maybe they just can't play defence as well as Morck herself, the tallest of the Dino women at six foot one. She has been tagged with the title of "go-go gadget arms" for her Inspector Gadget-like ability to reach unnatural heights when blocking opposing shots. It's a skill welcomed on a Dino defence that is not known for its height, but has used its athleticism to keep teams off the board of late.
"The biggest change in our game has been on the defensive end," explained Dinos head coach Shawnee Harle, curiously neglecting to credit Morck's gadget arms for the turnaround. "We just don't let teams get into a rhythm."
The women will try to maintain their rhythm in Manitoba this weekend, when they invade Winnipeg to clash with the University of Manitoba Bisons (12-6) Fri., Feb. 2 and the University of Winnipeg Wesman (11-7) Sat., Feb. 3. With the Dinos dominating play of late, there are many reasons to believe they will come home with a season sweep of the Great Plains division under their belt.
"I think both teams are beatable," said Harle. "The way we've been playing lately, they're going to have to figure out how to stop us. We're going to come out pressing from the opening tip off."
Two road wins combined with two losses by either the University of Alberta or Saskatchewan would put the Dinos in a first place tie in the Central Division standings, making a forgettable 3-6 start easier to forget. Given the team's streaky success stories in the last few years, expect to see Calgary return home next week with a pair of wins, as well as a place in the nation's top 10 rankings. Talk about turning a season on its head.