CAMROSE, Alberta — It’s not how you start, but how you finish.
Down the stretch in 2017-18, the University of Alberta – Augustana Vikings had a shot at being one of the four teams from the North Division to reach the ACAC Women’s Basketball Championships. However, down the stretch, four losses over their last five games derailed the Vikings’ post-season hopes.
Augustana entered the final month of the season with a record of 6-10, and while they were on the outside looking in on the playoffs, they were still alive in the race for a spot in the ACAC Championships. Three straight wins to open the month of February extended their overall winning streak to four, pushing their record a game away from the .500 mark at 9-10.
The Vikings had momentum on their side, but their hot streak came to an end over the last five games of the season.
Four losses over their last five outings put Augustana out of the playoff picture, but playing meaningful basketball for the second season in a row is a step in the right direction. Back in 2016-17, the Vikings were in a similar spot to last season, but four straight losses kept Augustana out of the playoffs.
After limping to the finish in each of the last two seasons, Augustana will be looking to finish the season strong and secure a spot in the ACAC Championships in 2018-19.
Throughout the 2017-18 regular season, the Vikings found themselves in several close games that could have went either way. Six of their 14 losses on the season came by fewer than five points, including two of their four losses to close out the season.
Those six contests were ultimately the difference between the Vikings making the playoffs and missing out altogether. In 2018-19, the Vikings will look to finish strong and enter the ACAC playoffs with a boost of momentum.
Much like the men’s program for the Vikings, the women’s team will have several key contributors back from last year’s team, all of whom will look to draw inspiration and motivation from their sluggish finish to 2017-18 to fuel their efforts this season. All four of the team’s top scorers from last season’s team are back this year, three of which averaged double-digit points per contest.
Leading the way will be fifth-year guard Torey Lauber. The 5’8” guard from Ryley, Alberta is the lone fifth-year student-athlete on this year’s roster, and she will look to provide some veteran leadership to the five first-year players for the Vikings.
Last season, Lauber was one of two players to start all 24 regular season games for Augustana. She finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.9 points per contest. Lauber shot 45.2% from the field, and 45.0% from three-point range over the course of the season. Her 4.8 rebounds per game ranked second on the team, while she led the Vikings with 2.0 steals per contest.
Despite being a first-year player in 2017-18, guard Jessica Haenni led the Vikings on the offensive end of the floor. In 22 regular season games, 16 of which were starts, the native of Millet, Alberta led Augustana with an average of 14.3 points to go along with 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per contest.
From December 2nd, 2017 through to February 9th, 2018, a span of eight games around the Christmas break, Haenni kicked her game up a notch. Haenni scored in double figures in all eight games, averaging 16.8 points per contest.
Augustana went 5-3 over the eight games, a stretch that included a four-game winning streak.
Third year guard Samantha Dargis and third-year forward Emma van Bruinessen are back to round out the group of top four scorers from a year ago. Dargis posted 11.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game across 23 appearances as a second-year player in 2017-18. Up front, van Bruinessen led the team with 9.9 rebounds per game while also chipping in with 9.7 points per game on offense.
The Vikings have a solid core intact for the 2018-19 season that will be looking to make up for lost time after back-to-back seasons with less than stellar finishes down the stretch. With only one fifth-year player on this year’s roster, the future is bright in Camrose surrounding the Vikings.
To compliment their returnees, Augustana went out and added five first-year players to bolster the team’s depth. The Vikings will look to contend for one of the four playoff spots in the ACAC North Division and make a run at the league crown.
With the Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas expected to contend for the Canada West crowns, the 2018-19 season is shaping up to be a good one for basketball programs across the University of Alberta.
– T. Bennett