From Canada West Universities Athletic Association. – The 2014-15 Canada West women’s basketball season tips off on Friday, October 31 with a heavyweight matchup between the defending conference champion Saskatchewan Huskies and rival Alberta Pandas, ranked second on the coaches’ preseason polls. All games this season will be webcasted live onCanadaWest.TV.
Expectations are high in Vancouver as the coaches selected the UBC Thunderbirds as this season’s favourites, and their mettle will be tested right off the bat when they take on fifth-ranked Victoria on home opening weekend (November 7-8) before traveling to Alberta to face the Pandas on the next week.
The MacEwan Griffins make their Canada West debut in the Explorers Division, where the Fraser Valley Cascades are the preseason favourites.
Below are what fans can expect to see from the new-look Canada West in 2014-15.
University of Fraser Valley Cascades
CW Preseason Coaches’ Poll Ranking: 8th overall, 1st in Explorers Division
2013-14 CIS Tournament Placing: 3rd (Bronze)
2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: 2nd (Silver)
2013-14 CW Record: 17-5
Last CIS Title: N/A
Last CW Title: N/A
Key returnees: Sarah Wierks, Nataliia Gavryliuk, Celeste Dyck, Katie Brink, Shayna Litman
Key additions: Jenika Bannerman, Danielle Vanbergen
Key departures: Aieisha Luyken, Nicole Wierks, Courtney Bartel
The Cascades are a far different team from the one that won the Canada West silver medal and the CIS bronze last spring, but the 2014-15 edition of the squad still has the type of talent and experience to be a contender once again.
The Cascades waved goodbye to six key players after their deep playoff run last season, including starting point guard Aieisha Luyken, lockdown defender Nicole Wierks and three-point shooting ace Courtney Bartel.
But they bring back a number of key veterans, led by fifth-year centre Sarah Wierks. The Chilliwack, B.C. native was the team’s leading scorer in 2013-14, averaging 11.9 points per game, and her 8.1 rebounds per game ranked sixth-best in Canada West. Between Wierks and third-year forwards Katie Brink and Shayna Litman, the Cascades’ frontcourt figures to shoulder an increased share of the team’s scoring load.
In the backcourt, fifth-year point guard Celeste Dyck takes over the starting job, and Hailey Kendall and Kaitlyn McDonald will take on larger roles as sophomores. Nataliia Gavryliuk, a third-year guard/forward from Kiev, Ukraine, brings a playmaking flair and will be among the team’s scoring leaders.