After a couple of painful losses to the archrival University of Alberta Pandas last weekend, it doesn't get any easier for the Dinos women's basketball team. The University of Victoria Vikes (7-4) and the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (9-3) roll into town for games Friday and Saturday, respectively, that take on an added importance because the Dinos now sit in sixth, one win out of a playoff spot.
Head coach Shawnee Harle doesn't think it's all bad, even though the team is currently on a three-game slide to start the new year.
"It's good news, bad news," says Harle. "We've lost our last three in a row . . . but the good news is we're a good enough team to win all three of those games. The bad news is we didn't.
"You always learn more from losing than you do from winning," she adds. "I hope that bodes well for us because our last three losses have been heart-wrenching, but perhaps those three losses will allow us to win down the stretch when it really matters."
The stretch is now comprised of seven more games, the next four at home and the final three on the road. They're only one win out of the fourth and final playoff spot, but after this week against the Vikes and T-Birds, play back-to-back against the division leading 10-2 University of Regina Cougars.
It's still too early to ramp up the pressure, though, says Harle.
"There's a lot of ball to be played," she says. "But I really think our kids need to wake up and start realizing that, you know, this isn't Kansas, Dorothy. This is Canada West basketball and you have to come to win every single night."
There are plenty of positive signs for a team that is currently second in the conference in scoring average, but allow the most points per game. They held the Pandas to 67 points Friday and 65 points on Saturday. But the Dinos were held to 65 points and 61 points, for a combined six-point differential in those two games.
"It's definitely painful and you definitely don't want that ever happening again," says rookie point guard Tilly Ettinger. "But we have a saying on our team, 'What's next?' After every kind of upsetting occurrence, we always want to focus on what's next. We can't change the past, we can only learn from it and try to make it better in the future."
"Definitely the fire burns in all of us, I can guarantee that," agrees first-year guard Tamara Jarrett. "We do not want to have what happened to us, especially in the Alberta games, to ever happen again."
The Dinos are looking at a tough schedule for these four remaining home games and without a few wins, could be looking at a steep climb to the playoffs for a three-game road trip to close out the season. Harle knows that this weekend, her team is the underdog in both games. But her and her young Dinos are focusing on what they can do well as a team.
"I know we're the underdogs this weekend in both games," Harle says. "I also know that both opposing coaches are not looking forward to playing us. . . . We have to get going here and step up to the plate, be ready to play to our strengths and also become a better defensive team."