By Woodard, Dale on November 1, 2019.
Coming off the program’s most successful season in 24 years, the expectations are heightened for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s basketball team.
Of course, you won’t hear them complaining about it.
The Horns open up their Canada West season in a match of last season’s quarter-final series when the Alberta Pandas visit tonight at 6 p.m. at the 1st Choice Savings Centre.
Following a 12-8 season that led to a play-in game against the Manitoba Bisons before a two-game sweep over the Pandas the Canada West quarter-finals, the Horns return to the hardwood with the ante upped this season.
“Our group identified it early and said now there is expectation and there’s a bit of a bull’s-eye on us,” said Pronghorns head coach Dave Waknuk, whose team eventually lost in the semifinals to the eventual Canada West champion Saskatchewan Huskies.
“But that’s a position that you want to get your program into. So for us, we have an older group in a group that has been through a lot of adversity and a lot of games in this league. So I don’t think the pressure affects us as much as it would a younger team, the fact that we’ve been through a successful playoff run and played meaningful games. The last two months of last season, it’s not like it’s different. You’re going to start with a little bit of expectation, but that’s outside noise. I think we have to focus internally and focus on what we do.”
The Pronghorns bring in three fifth-year players in Katie Keith, Kacie Bosch and Asnate Fomina.
Bosch was the Pronghorns leading scorer and a Canada West Second Team All-Star, averaging 15.1 points per game.
“We’re excited,” said Keith. “I think we’re going to build off of our success last year. I think we have pretty high expectations going into this year, just how we finished in the semifinals last year.
“I think we handled the pressure really well because that was our first semifinal game in years. So knowing that whenever we’re in a pressure situation we can figure it out and just play our game.”
The local product who went to Chinook High School heads into her final season as a leader.
“I really enjoy it,” said Keith. “It’s fun for me to know that I’ve gone from a rookie to a senior in a been with the same program for five years.”
Jessica Haenni, who transferred from Augustana University College Vikings of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, joins the Pronghorns this season.
“She was an all-Canadian last year and the North Division Player of the Year,” said Waknuk. “Obviously she has an impressive pedigree in two years of college basketball and is someone we think can make an impact with us and she’s someone I know. Her and Savannah (McKee). I’ve coached them with Team Alberta in the past. It’s new faces for our program, but familiar faces for me because I’ve had past experiences with them. So we’re excited for what they bring. It’s nice to have a different perspective and some useful energy to come into our group.”
The rematch against the Pandas goes Saturday at 5 p.m.
“We watched them play last weekend, we were up in Calgary and they played UBC,” said Waknuk. “You know Alberta every year is well-coached, well-prepared and with a lot of talent on the team. Obviously, the last time we played them was when we swept them in the playoffs. So there’s no lack of motivation for them and there’s no lack of motivation for us. I think it’s going to be a good weekend of basketball and the quality of basketball will be as high as it’s been in this gym for a while. We’re just looking forward to the opportunity. I know it’s only the start of the year, but I think it’s always fun when you have to play up to a higher calibre team like them.”
“It’s always fun to start our season off with a home game and hopefully will have a decent crowd,” added Keith. “We’ve played with a lot of them and played against a lot of them. So I think both teams know each other inside and out. It’s just going to come down to the little things, who plays harder.”
Both games will also streamed live on http://www.canadawest.tv.
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