Augustana Vikings Looking to Build Off Fourth-Place Finish at ACAC Championship in 2019-20

Okome, Tobore
Tobore Okome, the reigning ACAC Rookie of the Year, is one of several key contributors back for the Augustana Vikings in 2019-20 as they look to build on last year’s fourth-place finish at the ACAC Championship. (Source: Augustana Vikings)

CAMROSE, Alta. — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

The 2019-20 basketball season is right around the corner, and we’re here to help you get set for what will surely be an incredible journey.

While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2018-19 season, one that saw two teams win their first-ever National Championships in school history, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead. The 2019-20 season promises to deliver a heightened level of excitement, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the new campaign.

To get fans across the country ready for the new season, we’ve taken on a challenge that hasn’t been done before. In the coming weeks, we will preview every team from coast to coast ahead of the 2019-20 season.

That’s 111 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally.

From August 8th through to October 6th, every team will be previewed in some capacity. For institutions that have both men’s and women’s basketball, a separate preview piece will be done for each team.

Rosters will be dissected and a look back at the year that was will help us determine what the team looks like this time around as every team begins with a blank slate in the standings.

Without further adieu, here is today’s preview on the women’s basketball program for the Augustana Vikings.

2018-19 in Review

The 2018-19 season was a strong year for both the men’s and women’s basketball programs for the Augustana Vikings. Not only did the men’s program win an ACAC bronze medal, but the women’s program had themselves a deep playoff run that almost resulted in a medal of their own.

In the ultra-competitive ACAC North Division, the Vikings fought their way to an impressive 15-9 record overall. They finished fourth in the division, earning a playoff spot after winning the tiebreaker over the CUE Thunder, who had a matching 15-9 record. The Vikings had to sweat it out down the stretch, as they lost four straight games to end the regular season.

In the playoffs, anything can happen. For the Vikings, they were tasked with facing the Medicine Hat Rattlers in the quarter-finals, who were the top seed from the South Division. Despite their losing streak heading into the post-season, the Vikings found a way to upset the Rattlers and advance on the Championship side of the bracket.

Augustana led 41-25 at the break, and they held off the Rattlers down the stretch. The Vikings advanced to the semifinals with a 74-67 win over Medicine Hat, ending the Rattlers’ hopes of advancing to Nationals in the process.

In the semifinals, the Vikings were in tough against a talented Keyano College Huskies program. In a low-scoring affair, the Huskies knocked off the Vikings, 55-42, sending Augustana to the bronze medal game against the Lakeland College Rustlers.

The Vikings put up a valiant effort in the bronze medal game, but their season came to a close with a 56-44 loss to the Rustlers.

Over the year, Augustana used a balanced scoring attach to keep pace atop the North Division in what is widely considered one of the toughest divisions in the CCAA. Heading into the 2019-20 season, the Vikings will have a new face behind the bench leading the program, but several key faces will be back on the floor as Augustana will be looking to build off last year’s fourth-place finish.

Who’s Gone?

The Vikings lose a total of four players from last season, three of which were regulars in the lineup. Two of the departing players started in all 24 regular season games a year ago, leaving a pair of spots to be filled in the starting five this time around.

However, the Vikings’ biggest loss may very well be from the coaching staff. Robyn Fleckenstein stepped down as Head Coach of the program when she accepted the vacant position of Head Coach with the Mount Royal Cougars in the Canada West Conference. As she takes over for Nate McKibbon, who is now the Head Coach of the Western Mustangs, Fleckenstein leaves behind a Vikings roster that has her fingerprints all over it.

Haenni, Jessica
After two seasons with the Vikings, Jessica Haenni transferred to the Lethbridge Pronghorns for the 2019-20 season. (Source: Lethbridge Pronghorns)

On the court, the Vikings will be without their leading scorer from last season, Jessica Haenni (Millet, Alta.). Haenni was the only player for the Vikings to average double-digit points per game last season, finishing the year with an average of 14.7 points per contest. She added 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per contest.

Haenni was one of three players for Augustana to start all 24 games in 2018-19. Next season, Haenni will make the transition to the Canada West as she has transferred to the Lethbridge Pronghorns for the 2019-20 season. She was also named the ACAC North Division Player of the Year and a CCAA Academic All-Canadian.

Emma VanBruinessen (Leduc, Alta.) is also making the jump from the ACAC to the Canada West Conference, as she will suit up for the UNBC Timberwolves in 2019-20. Last season, VanBruinessen was the Vikings’ top rebounder, averaging 8.3 rebounds per game despite primarily coming off the bench.

VanBruinessen saw the floor in 20 regular season games, but made just five starts for the year. Her ability to impact the game in a reserve role served the Vikings well all season long. She added 6.3 points per game on 43.9% shooting on the offensive end of the floor.

Veteran Torey Lauber (Ryley, Alta.) was another one of the players who started every fame in 2018-19 for Fleckenstein and the Vikings. Lauber averaged 7.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game in her final season with Augustana.

The Vikings lose some production on both sides of the ball, but their roster was balanced in 2018-19. This season, they return five players who averaged at least 5.2 points per game, some of which will look to step into the starting five and continue their development with the program in a new role.

Who’s Back?

While the Vikings lose their top scorer from last season, the roster was extremely balanced in 2018-19 and that will benefit Augustana this season. They return five players who averaged at least 5.2 points per game on offense, three of whom averaged at least 4.6 rebounds per game on top of their offensive production.

Samantha Dargis (Beaumont, Alta.) is one of two players returning who averaged 9.0 points per game last season. For the season, Dargis averaged 9.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per contest while shooting 35.5% from the field and 35.4% from three-point range. Dargis kicked off the season on the right foot, posting 27 points in the Vikings’ regular season opener against CUE, shooting 8-of-17 from the field in the process.

Dargis started the 2018-19 season strong, posting five games with double-digit points over the team’s first six games. Down the stretch, she recorded just one game with double-figures over the Vikings’ final nine games.

The Vikings return just one player who started all 24 games last season, and that is forward Hannah Mitchell (Leduc, Alta.). The 6’0’’ post player averaged 9.0 points per game on 44.4% shooting from the floor. She had 11 games with double-digit points last season, and she recorded at least five points in 22 of the Vikings’ 24 regular season games.

Mitchell is also the top returning rebounder for Augustana this season. Last year, Mitchell posted an average of 4.8 rebounds per contest.

Last season, Tobore Okome (Edmonton, Alta.) as recognized for her on-court contributions as a first-year student-athlete. She was named the ACAC Rookie of the Year after posting 7.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest on 57.5% shooting from the floor. Okome will look to continue her rise in the ACAC in Year Two, and an expanded role appears to be on the horizon for her this year.

Alyssa Banez (Lloydminster, Alta.) put together a strong season in the back court, but she found another gear in the second half of the year on offense. Banez posted 7.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game over the course of the year. She had at least three assists on 10 occasions, showcasing her ability to get her teammates involved. On offense, Banez recorded five games with double-digit points in the winter semester alone.

Tegan MacKinnon (St. Albert, Alta.) is the fifth and final key contributor back this year for the Vikings. She averaged 5.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game last season while shooting 35.4% from the field and 31.9% from three-point range. MacKinnon will step into an expanded role this season as a veteran with the Vikings.

The Vikings should have another balanced roster this season, similar to that of last year. With five players who averaged at least 5.0 points per game back in the fold, the Vikings will look to contend once more for an ACAC Championship in the tough North Division.

Incoming Talent

In terms of their incoming talent, the Vikings have a total of five first-year players listed on their 2019-20 roster, along with a pair of ACAC transfers. All five of their first-year student-athletes have been identified as red-shirts thus far, while it looks as though the two transfers will be sitting out this season.

Jenessa Doctor (Gibbons, Alta.), Taylah Fiveland (Westerose, Alta.), and Megan Hebert (Wetaskiwin, Alta.) are all first-year players and will give the back court rotation a boost, especially with the departures from last year’s team. Up front, forwards Jenika Martens (La Crete, Alta.) and Macy Meinema (Lacombe, Alta.) bring size and depth to the front court mix, one that will be looking to replace their top rebounder from last year.

In terms of ACAC transfers, the Vikings have Katie Ballhorn (Wetaskiwin, Alta.) and Sheridan Popenia (Langham, Sask.) listed on their online roster. Ballhorn comes to Augustana from the Red Deer College Queens, while Popenia comes to the Vikings from the Medicine Hat Rattlers.

While they have yet to name a new Head Coach for the women’s program, the Vikings are an intriguing group this year in the ACAC.

They have the league’s top rookie from last season in Okome, and she will look to take another big step forward in Year Two. The Vikings return five players in total who averaged at least 5.2 points per game, but only one player who started every game last year.

Several new faces will take on new roles this season, and how they adapt will play a big part in how far the Vikings go in 2019-20.

Be sure to bookmark our 2019-20 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.

– T. Bennett

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