Viva Las Vegas
While most University of Regina students were savouring their time off on the day after Christmas, the Cougars women’s basketball team was boarding a plane to Las Vegas, NV.
Their goal wasn’t to gamble or let loose under the desert sun, but to see how they measured up against National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) talent from south of the border.
“It was good,” Cougars veteran forward Lindsay Ledingham said of the trip. “It was obviously lots of fun being able to play in Vegas, and it was good just to have three games over Christmas to kind of shake the rust off and spend some time together as a team.”
But if there was any rust accumulated from the short time the team spent apart over the Christmas break, it didn’t show in Vegas, where the Cougars went undefeated through three games.
The Cougars beat Montana Tech 50-47, Carroll College 60-48 and Montana Western 65-47 en route to a perfect 3-0 record.
“It was good competition, it’s just we had to make sure that we played together,” Cougars second-year guard Kehlsie Crone said.
Some slightly different rules, like the lack of a backcourt time limit, meant the Cougars had to make some small adjustments to their play.
“You could have it in the backcourt the whole time and it doesn’t matter, so the speed of the game is way different,” Crone said.
Other than that, the style of play didn’t differ much from the CIS competition the Cougars are used to.
“There’s not a huge difference,” said Cougars rookie Katie Polischuk. “I think with the teams we played we had more size over them, but their bench was all solid players. They had 12 deep on each team.”
“Everyone put in, I don’t know, a dollar, and somehow I ended up winning. But by the end I think I lost it playing blackjack and all that. No one really lost an extreme amount of money. I guess we’re not extreme gamblers.” – Lindsay Ledingham
While the primary purpose of the trip was to play basketball, that’s not to say that the team didn’t have time to take in the sights and sounds of the Vegas strip.
“We’d have one shoot a day and one game a day, and the rest of the time was to ourselves,” Polischuk said. “We could use it however we wanted, so we got to see a lot of the strip and stuff like that.”
For most of the team, the free time amounted to “a lot of walking around, a lot of shopping, just kind of seeing all the different hotels and stuff like that,” Polischuk said.
For those over 21, it meant a chance to see where Sin City gets its name.
But if there was any indulgence on the part of the Cougars veterans, they weren’t letting on.
“For the most part we were pretty good,” Ledingham said. “We’re pretty responsible if we play the next day. We knew we were there for basketball, and despite being in Vegas, that was our focus.”
But that doesn’t mean the Cougars didn’t try their hands in one of the cities’ 122 registered casinos.
Ledingham, herself, was the team’s big winner, pulling in a cool $100 on a penny slot machine.
“Everyone put in, I don’t know, a dollar, and somehow I ended up winning,” she said. “But by the end I think I lost it playing blackjack and all that. No one really lost an extreme amount of money. I guess we’re not extreme gamblers.”
Besides offering the Cougars a reprieve from the Canadian winter for a few days, the Vegas trip provided the team a chance to get geared up for what’s sure to be an exciting second half to the 2012-13 season.
“It’s just good to spend the time with them,” Ledingham said. “It was good after Christmas because we had a break away from each other, so just to get back with each other and hang out, it helps on the court and off the court.
“It’s our fourth month, so we’ve been around each other a lot. Team bonding isn’t necessarily lacking, but obviously we still want to stay close together off the court because it’s going to affect how we play on the court,” Ledingham said. “Just to have the time to be able to do that was crucial.”
With the Cougars hosting this year’s CIS championship beginning on March 15, the team will be looking to have a strong second half.
“We have six really tough games ahead of us coming up against lots of the top-10 teams in the country, so these next six games are going to be really tough,” Ledingham said. “We’re taking it one weekend at a time because, obviously, every team is very competitive.”
The Cougars resolve was put to the test on Jan. 18, when they met up with the University of Victoria Vikes in Victoria, B.C.
In a closely contested game, the Cougars fell 61-58 to the Vikes, ending their Canada West winning streak at 11 straight games.
The following night, however, they were able to rebound against the red-hot UBC Thunderbirds, ending a nine-game UBC win streak with a 63-53 victory.
With just eight games remaining in the regular season schedule, the Cougars will be looking to finish strong in the weeks ahead.
Their next action comes Jan. 25 and 26, when they play host to the University of Alberta Pandas at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport.
While Ledingham remains confident in her team’s abilities, she knows that the road to nationals will not be an easy one.
“It’s going to take a lot of effort from everyone individually, and a lot of effort as a team to be able to keep it going,” she said. “Hopefully we do, but we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
The Cougars men’s hockey team recently said goodbye to third-year forward Matt Strueby who signed a deal with the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles. However, after losing a good player they also gained one in first-year forward Drew Czerwonka, former captain of the Kootenay Ice who made his debut with the Cougars on Jan. 11.
After registering 11 straight wins to close out 2012, the women’s hockey team started 2013 on a sour note, rattling off three straight losses. However, the Cougars were able to put a stop to their losing skid on Jan. 18 with a 5-3 win against Mount Royal at home.
Since registering back-to-back wins on Jan. 11-12, the Cougars followed their strong performance with two losses, causing their record to drop to 5-9. Regina now sits seventh out of a possible eight in the Prairie Division of the Canada West conference and is 10 points back of the final playoff spot with just eight games remaining.
2013 has not been kind to the Cougars women’s volleyball team, who has four consecutive losses. The young team is experiencing a learning curve this year that could explain why they currently sit 10th out of twelve teams in Canada West. Though not mathematically out of playoff contention yet, with just six games left in the season and eight points to make up, they will need a miracle.
Including a tournament the Cougars men’s volleyball team participated in over Christmas break, they have now lost nine straight games and are currently tied for dead last in the Canada West standings. With six games left in the season and 12 points to make up to grab the final playoff spot it looks like it will be another long summer for the volleyball team.
Photo by Emily Wright