Vikings women find game in sweep of Wolves
University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings Beliana Slikker (12) and Emma van Bruinessen (24) battle Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves Kassandra Little for a rebound during Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women's basketball action in Camrose, Alta. on Saturday October 28, 2017. Augustana won 70-60. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian/Postmedia Network
There are few greater motivators for an athlete than opportunity.
The University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings women’s basketball team could have taken a surprise coaching change in the summer as a setback. Instead the returning players and the incoming recruiting class have taken full advantage of a clean slate. Perhaps, none more than second year post Emma Van Bruinessen.
The Vikings rebounded from an 0-2 start in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference regular season to get back to .500 after a sweep of the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves in Camrose, winning 87-53 on Friday and 70-60 on Saturday.
Leading the charge for the Vikings was Van Bruinessen who notched a double-double in both games.
“She is a work horse,” said head coach Robyn Fleckenstein. “Today she wasn’t feeling good, could you tell? No. Her level of intensity and her level of energy that she walks into the gym with is infectious for our girls and we depend on that big time.”
Last season, the Vikings relied heavily on an outside shooting game, where if they ran cold they were in trouble. Even then, the Leduc product carved out a place in the lineup and had a strong freshman season.
This year under Fleckenstein they have put in place a much more aggressive transition game that takes advantage of match-up nightmares like Van Bruinessen, who has the speed to run the court and the size to post-up and out-muscle her opponents. Last year she was fourth in rebounds in the North division with 6.63 per game, this year she is first through four games with 11.3. She is also averaging 8.8 points per game, up from 6.4, and is feeling more and more comfortable in the offence with each game. On Friday she had 13 points and 15 rebounds in 22 minutes on the floor, and on Sunday she had 13 points and 14 rebounds in 25 minutes.
“Last year I wasn’t expecting to play a whole ton … and then I ended up coming out finishing (fourth) in rebounds,” said Van Bruinessen.
The sweep was due to more than just the efforts of Van Bruinessen. In Friday’s win, three other players broke into double digits in scoring as Samantha Dargis and Jessica Haenni had 16, and Torey Lauber had 13. On Saturday, Dargis scored 23 points while Beliana Slikker had 13 and Lauber 11.
This goes back to the aggressive game plan of Fleckenstein, who spent a lot of time working on the team’s press this weekend.
“We are starting to play in a way that makes me feel good,” said Fleckenstein. “We’ve got rhythm, we’ve got flow, we make decisions much faster than we were, we see the floor much better than we were, we are much tougher, and our press is looking much better.”
This is still early in the team’s development under Fleckenstein as they continue to learn the ins and outs of her systems.
“We all came in not knowing what was going on or who was going to be our coach this year and everyone really stepped up and accepted Robyn as our coach and there’s spots available if people want to fight for them,” said Van Bruinessen.
The men had a more difficult weekend in their games against the Wolves after losing starting veteran point guard Darian Smigorowsky in practice to an injury during the week. They dropped to 0-4 on the season after losing 93-83 on Friday and 86-82 on Saturday.
Austin Brulotte and Nathan Bowie scored 17 points each to lead the Vikings on Friday while Michael Stasuik had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Eddy Nkerabahizi added 14 points and Spencer Marion 13.
On Saturday, Marion led Augustana with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Bowie also scored 20 points, and Nkerabahizi had 13, Mason Hunter 12 and Stasiuk 11.
The Vikings play The King’s University College Eagles this weekend, hosting on Friday (women at 6 p.m., men at 8 p.m.) and in Edmonton on Saturday.