This should be the year

Best of the PACWEST, the Blues Women’s Basketball team is gearing up to take the gold

Helen Aikenhead // Features Editor

Last year, the Capilano University Blues Women’s Basketball team saw another astounding season. Going nearly undefeated and finishing first in the regular season with a 16-2 record, the team was the best in the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST). The 2016-17 season saw both the team and its individual players achieve success both on and off the court.

Ashley Dela Cruz Yip, the team’s point guard and leader on the floor, was the recipient of multiple awards including the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Academic All-Canadian and PACWEST Second Team All-Star. Last year’s team captain and lead scorer, Carmelle M’Bikata, made news when she was named to the CCAA All-Canadian team as well as the PACWEST Player of the Year.

Despite their many triumphs, the Blues were left disappointed in the PACWEST finals. Although the team had a strong start, they fell behind the Douglas College Royals in the second quarter and ultimately came away with the silver medal and without a spot at nationals.

The off-season has shown the team’s new communication-focused approach to be off to a good start. The six newest additions to the Blues’ roster have been settling in well, picking up plays and quickly earning the trust of their returning counterparts.

According to Dela Cruz Yip, this was history repeating itself. In the previous gold medal game, the Blues were also shocked by a second-place finish, despite a strong run throughout the season. M’Bikata suggested that the change in pace in last season’s final may have been due to fatigue, before agreeing with Dela Cruz Yip that there also may have been a lack of communication on the court in that fateful game. “I think it might have been too that nearing [the] end of third or fourth quarter, we kind of weren’t playing as much as a team as we should have been,” said Dela Cruz Yip, “we were playing kind of individually and not really utilizing each others’ best parts.”

Both players agree that communication is going to play an important role in their upcoming campaign. Dela Cruz Yip explained that while this is important in both offensive and defensive plays, trust and communication between the players are key aspects of strong defence. “Defence was a big thing for us last year, and I’m sure it’s going to be the same this year,” M’Bikata explained, “We’ve always been emphasizing that during practice — that we should focus on defence first and then our offence will come.” A test for the team will be keeping that defence consistent up until the buzzer, as past games have shown their defence to decrease only in the final quarters.

The off-season has shown the team’s new communication-focused approach to be off to a good start. The six newest additions to the Blues’ roster have been settling in well, picking up plays and quickly earning the trust of their returning counterparts. Dela Cruz Yip and M’Bikata are both excited about the four rookies joining the team, describing them as very committed, eager to compete and open to communication. Dela Cruz Yip explained that there is a big learning curve for players who are entering the league, so it’s important they learn the skill early. “We’re trying to make sure that they’re staying vocal with us. Like, let us know if there’s something that [they] don’t understand…and they’re doing that. They’re letting us know if they have an issue.”

Experienced players Danya Lincoln and Emma Cunningham have also signed on to the Blues’ roster this year and are both expected to bring a lot to the coming season. Although Lincoln was injured early in the pre-season, she is expected to be back on the court soon and is described by Dela Cruz Yip as a great presence for the team, especially on the boards. Cunningham is expected to bring a lot to the team too. Entering her fourth year, Cunningham has played as an opponent of the Blues many times and her new teammates are excited to now have her on their side.

Although the team hasn’t played as many exhibition games as they have in past years, this off-season has served them well in terms of getting the new players more familiar with the core principles and in getting the new and returning players acquainted – but it hasn’t been easy.

Due to several injuries, there has been a bit of a lull in the team’s drive, and only recently with more players returning to practices have they picked back up. The only player still recovering is forward Nancy Emma, who suffered a concussion at the start of the season. Making sure that Emma is fully recovered before she steps back on the court is a priority to the team, but they are hopeful that it won’t be too long before she can play. Despite the setbacks, the team is ranked seventh in the nation going into the season.

As Dela Cruz Yip explained, it’s good that the team is getting the shift in momentum out of the way now so come the opening game on Nov. 10, they will be ready to give it their all.

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