Losing veterans doesn’t mean you have to lose games
Article: Paige Kreutzwieser – Staff Writer
They may consider it a building year, but the U of R women’s basketball team isn’t letting that stop them from winning.
With an 8-2 record going into the halfway point of the season, the Cougars are looking strong once again.
Last season, with the likes of Michelle Clark, Brittany Read, Danielle Schmidt and Lindsay Ledingham on the bench, the squad made it to the final in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s basketball championship, losing 66-57 against three-peat champions Windsor Lancers.
Going into this year, the team lost those four strong starters.
“We are still doing super well, considering we lost that many people,” said Alyssia Kajati, a third-year post for the Cougars. “I think our dynamics are a little bit different. Our coach [now] considers us young and full of energy.”
But despite the apparent youthfulness of this year’s roster, Kajati mentioned they do have “old bodies”.
Sidney Dobner just recently tore her ACL, which for the fourth-year guard coming off a red-shirt season last year, is a very devastating situation.
But it’s not just Dobner who is suffering, said Kajati.
“This Christmas break was good for us because we all were breaking down,” she laughed.
Bringing in new players this season, like veteran guard Nicole Clarke from the University of Alberta, is one way head coach Dave Taylor has been helping the team build this year.
Kajati said Clarke brings a leadership role to the team with her experience and skill, but added that everyone on the team has stepped up.
“With the change in players, we don’t necessarily have that one dominant leader yet,” Kajati said. “It’s kind of cool, we all contribute in our own ways and our own leadership strengths.”
Alongside Clarke, two rookies were added to the roster this season – Sara Hubenig and Caitlin Zacharias.
Kajati said that the two Regina rookies are great additions to the team.
“It’s tough being a rookie, and I know that,” she said. “They have a lot to learn and that’s fine, that is why they are here. But when they do get time, they use it and I think that is a great thing. They always play their hardest.”
A local Reginian as well, Kajati said being a Cougar is a childhood dream come true for her.
“As a kid I always went to the games and I thought they were big superstars,” she said. “It’s just really cool being on the team now.”
Being on the current team has its perks, too. The squad recently travelled for the second consecutive year to Las Vegas over the winter break to take part in the Frontier Conference Las Vegas Shootout.
The Regina squad was able to secure wins in all three of their games for the second year in a row, and even handed the Lewis-Clark State Warriors their first loss of their 2013-14 season.
“It’s good competition,” said Kajati. “It’s nice to have those three games to get out of the way and to get back into it for the season.”
Although the focus was to win while down south, the girls were able to take in some of the classic Vegas opportunities.
“We just have to owe our three hours to Dave…but after that we are kind of are on our own. He trusts us. He knows we are all responsible, so he gives us the empowerment,” laughed Kajati.
If the team is able to continue their winning streak – but specifically to win all home games – they will secure a home playoff game.
“That’s really nice to have, because travelling is always really stressful,” said the education student, who knows first hand what balancing school and sports together can be like. “It’s tough. I feel like I sometimes don’t have room to breathe. It’s always a jam-packed schedule. But, I am used to it and I don’t like being not busy.”
Fortunately, the team got most of their travelling out of the way before the winter break, as they only have four away games left in the regular season.
Their next four games will be at home, with the Cougars looking to take on Thompson River on Thursday and UBC on Friday, tip off is at 6:15p.m.