If there is a winning formula for basketball, then the UBC women’s team have shown in the past that they have it, albeit with two key ingredients missing. Head coach Deb Huband believes that toughness and consistency prevented their success last season.
“I think first and foremost, after last season we had a chance to look at ourselves in the mirror and isolate a few things we wanted to improve on in the off season, and one thing was overall team toughness,” said Huband.
After dropping the Canada West quarterfinals to the Alberta Pandas last year, the T-Birds kept busy during the off season by working on offensive execution as well as strength and conditioning to increase both mental and physical strength.
While grueling runs on Wreck Beach and hikes up the Grouse Grind are sure-fire ways to increase tenacity and toughness, the ability to perform with these attributes consistently is an entirely different matter.
“The last year or two we’ve maybe under-performed a little bit and haven’t been able to get over the hump when the playoffs hit, as far as getting consistent performances from the people we rely on,” said Huband.
“We have two fifth-year players who we’re really going to look to, to lead us on the floor.”
Those two players are forwards Zara Huntley and Alex Vieweg, both of whom have received MVP and All-Star recognition.
Huband says the team will look to Vieweg for leadership, tough defensive play and point scoring.
Huntley’s strengths are scoring points in the paint and dominating on the glass.
It takes a team to win games, however, and a deep talent pool is necessary to be a contender with the high level of competition in the Canada West.
Huntley believes solid repeat performances will be determined by the depth of this year’s roster. “In the past we haven’t been consistent enough to make it as far as we wanted to, but we have more talent, we’re really good this year. I think we can do it,” she said.
Some of the new recruits have already begun to make waves in the preseason.
“Cassandra Knievel is a rookie guard from Nanaimo who has been getting decent minutes and is a real sniper from the three point line and a solid defensive player,” said Huband. “The rookies are working hard and I think they’re all going to be solid for us as their careers go on.”
With only one loss in the preseason and a tournament sweep, the ‘Birds have shown they are a championship calibre team.
Whether or not they can hold onto this game-winning formula throughout the season will determine if they are a contender or a pretender.
UBC has started their season 1-1 and will host the Trinity Western Spartans at War Memorial Gym this Thursday at 6pm and Saturday at 5pm.