It’s a new season and a new look for the UVic Vikes women’s basketball team as they hit the court for their season opener this weekend.
The Vikes host UBC-Okanagan Heat Friday (Oct. 27), with the women at 6 p.m. followed by the men at 8 p.m., then again Saturday at 5 and 7 p.m.
Saturday is Poster Night, as the first 500 fans will get a Vikes team poster from Big Wheel Burger and the Saanich News. Entry is free for fans under-18 who wear a jersey, courtesy of the Golf For Kids charity initiative. The Vikes will be available to sign the posters 10 minutes after each game.
After hosting the U Sports women’s national championship in the spring, the Vikes are itching to get back on the court, especially after an abbreviated preseason in which they played just four games, said third-year forward Marissa Dheensaw, a 2015 Claremont grad.
“It’s exciting to finally play, it feels like we haven’t gotten started yet,” said Dheensaw. “Last year we started preseason in mid-August, so we’ve been looking forward to this.”
On paper, the Vikes are the favourite this weekend, having finished with a 12-8 record in the Canada West last year. Compare that to the Heat, which won just four of 20 games.
However, the Vikes won just one of their preseason games, and are a new team having graduated Jenna Bugiardini, who played 33 minutes per game, led the Canada West in rebounds averaging 9.9 per game and was eighth in Canada West scoring, averaging 16 points per game.
If there’s a positive to losing standout Bugiardini it’s that the leadership core of the Vikes will be around for a while. There are no fifth-year players. Fourth-year Amira Giannattasio, who averaged 14 points a game last year, will lead the team with fellow fourth-years Kristy Gallagher and Paige Thomson.
Dheensaw, who already averaged upwards of 28 minutes, will also take on a more prominent role. She worked to strengthen her offensive range throughout the summer and is hoping to be more of a threat on offence this year.
“This happened in my first year as well, we had no fifth-years and it worked in our favour,” Dheensaw said. “We got to build as a team and work with the same team next year [without losing anyone].”
Tickets are available at govikesgo.com/tickets.