Capilano Blues Reload for Another Run at PACWEST Championship, Nationals Berth

Wood, Devon
Forward Devon Wood is one of several key returnees for the Capilano Blues, who have also added a total of eight recruits and transfers to the mix as they aim to make another run at Nationals. (Source: North Shore News) (Header: Capilano Blues)

NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2019-20 season, one that had no shortage of excitement across both U Sports and the CCAA, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead.

The 2020-21 season is going to be one for the history books. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the start of the season has been pushed back until at least January 2021 for most leagues, with Quebec as the exception. The RSEQ has yet to make a decision on whether or not to delay sports until the Winter semester.

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 2020-21 season.

That’s 112 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally at home.

We are attempting to preview each and every team from coast to coast ahead of the new season. Challenges have emerged in each of the last two seasons as we’ve attempted this feat before, but we’re going to give it another run.

As they say, third time’s the charm. Right?

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 Capilano Blues Women’s Basketball program.

2019-20 in Review

Like many others who were supposed to compete at the 2020 CCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball National Championships, Head Coach Chris Weimer and the Capilano Blues were left wondering, what if.

The Blues posted a record of 15-3 in the regular season, placing them second in the PACWEST standings behind only the VIU Mariners. The Mariners posted a 17-1 record in the regular season, with their only loss coming at the hands of the Blues.

Back on January 25th, in the third game back after the break for Capilano, the Blues ended the Mariners’ 10-game winning streak to start the season. Capilano led 35-26 at halftime, and their lead expanded over the final 20 minutes.

The Blues picked up the 78-65 win over the Mariners, who came into the weekend set ranked #1 in the CCAA Top 15 Rankings at the time.

Looking back on the regular season, Weimer was pleased with how everything played out.

“We started a little slow, but hit our stride after Christmas,” said Weimer. “We had two big wins coming out of the break over Douglas who had beat us in overtime prior to the break.”

He also referenced the win over the Mariners, saying it was their biggest win of the season.

On the heels of a successful regular season, one that saw the Blues close on a six-game winning streak, Capilano geared up to host the 2020 PACWEST BC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships. As the 2nd-seed in the tournament, they earned an automatic berth into the semifinals. After the quarterfinals came and went, the Blues were matched up with a team that gave them some trouble in the first half of the season.

The Douglas College Royals.

Capilano won the regular season series 2-1, but the Royals weren’t a team to be overlooked. It was a low-scoring affair in the PACWEST Semifinals on both sides of the floor. The Blues held a 24-17 lead at the break, and they rode that momentum to a 54-39 win over the Royals to punch their ticket to the PACWEST BC Championship Game.

Ohama, Reiko (2)
Reiko Ohama was one of three fifth-year players on the Capilano roster who saw their respective careers come to an unexpected end due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source: North Shore News)

As a result of VIU winning their semi-final match-up over the Camosun Chargers, and the Mariners set to host the 2020 CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship, the Blues had secured yet another trip to Nationals.

Still, they wanted to enter as PACWEST Champions. They found themselves in tough against the Mariners once more, trailing by nine at the break, 26-17. Capilano would outscore the Mariners in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback. The Mariners picked up the 60-53 win, taking home Gold and forcing the Blues to settle for Silver.

The medal was the Blues’ fifth consecutive year with a PACWEST medal, a stretch that’s included four Silver Medals and one Gold Medal (2017-18).

As the Blues were gearing up for the trip to Nationals in Nanaimo, BC, the COVID-19 pandemic was getting worse by the day. Two days out from the event, the news broke.

The 2020 CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championships were cancelled.

“Obviously the season did not end the way we were hoping, with a disappointing loss to VIU on our home court in the Provincial final and then the cancelation of the National Championships hit the girls hard,” added Weimer. “Lots of tears were shed and emotions were high getting the news just two days prior to the Nationals.”

“Really felt for our 5th year athletes to have their careers end in that fashion.”

With the 2019-20 season ending unexpectedly and out of their control, the Blues will have extra motivation heading into the 2020-21 campaign. Having picked up a conference medal in each of the last five seasons, and eight of the last 10 years overall, the Blues have been a model of consistency in the PACWEST yet have still flown under the radar.

This season, with a total of 10 returnees and an eight-woman recruiting class coming in, the Blues have their sights set on making another run at the conference title, and getting back to Nationals so they can make up for lost time from a season ago.

Who’s Gone?

With the ever-changing situation surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic, and its effect on school enrollment for the fall semester and beyond, speculating what the 2020-21 roster could look like for the Blues is about the best we can do at this point.

What we do know is that Capilano will be without the services of four players from last year’s Silver medal winning team. Three players have graduated from the program, while the fourth has transferred to the University of British Columbia to continue preparations for Medical School.

Guard Reiko Ohama (Kamloops, BC) had herself a season that followed a similar trajectory to that of the Blues. From the outset, it took some time for Ohama to find her rhythm and get things rolling. In time, things started to come around, and she closed the year recording double-digit points in eight of her final nine regular season games.

For the year, Ohama averaged 12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 35.8% from the field, 30.7% from three-point range, and 70.7% from the free throw line over 16 games. At year’s end, Ohama was named a PACWEST Second Team All-Star for her efforts, especially down the stretch.

Fellow guard Sherrie Errico (North Vancouver, BC) is also graduating from the program. Errico did not play with the program in the first half of the season, but made her 2019-20 season debut on January 25th in the Blues’ 13-point win over VIU.

Across her seven regular season appearances, Errico posted 8.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 41.9% from the field and 34.6% from three-point range. Despite playing in just seven regular season games, Errico played a key role with the team throughout the season and was a key cog in their six-game winning streak to close the year.

Rounding out the group of fifth-year graduates is wing Emma Cunningham (Victoria, BC). While Cunningham has graduated the program from a playing perspective, she will remain with the team in 2020-21, making the move to the bench as an Assistant Coach under Weimer.

Cunningham started the season strong, posting double-digit points in four of her first five games. On November 8th, Cunningham went for 26 points and 11 rebounds in a win over the Langara Falcons. For the year, she averaged 8.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game, and was named a PACWEST Second Team All-Star as a result.

Cunningham, Emma
Emma Cunningham will make the transition from Player to Coach in 2020-21, joining the Capilano coaching staff as an Assistant Coach. (Source: Capilano Blues)

The fourth and final confirmed departure from last year’s team is guard Simrat Dosanjh (Surrey, BC). Last season, Dosanjh averaged 4.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per game over 15 regular season appearances off the bench for the Blues.

Dosanjh is off to the University of British Columbia, where she will continue preparations for Medical School.

Capilano will be tasked with replacing three veterans who have played a big part in the team’s success over the last few seasons, and a fourth who gave the team serviceable production and minutes off the bench. Cunningham will look to provide support and guidance from her role as an Assistant Coach, but it will come with an adjustment, as well.

While the Blues lost four players, they return as many as 10 players from last year’s team, all of whom will be hungry to pick up where they left off and make another run at a Gold Medal and a spot at Nationals.

Who’s Back?

Like most schools and programs all across Canada, Capilano University is awaiting the start of the school year to officially confirm who will be back and who may be taking a year off given the remote learning offering as opposed to in-person classes.

Still, the Blues are expecting the remaining 10 players on their roster to be back in the mix for the 2020-21 season, giving the team a heightened level of familiarity within the core group. The front court rotation will be a focal point with the returning players the Blues have, plus those they have added by way of recruiting.

Leading the way in terms of returnees is forward Kate Mallette (Langley, BC). Much like Errico, Mallette did not play in the first half, but showed little signs of rust when she made her debut in the second half of the season. In nine regular season games, Mallette recorded at least nine points and five rebounds each night out.

On offense, Mallette recorded double-digit points in seven of nine games, including a 25-point performance against Langara on February 22nd.

For the year, Mallette led the Blues with an average of 14.4 points per game while shooting 44.8% from the field and 82.9% from the free throw line. She also chipped in 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Had she met the minimum requirement, Mallette would have ranked third in the league in scoring and fourth in field goal percentage.

Also back in the front court is forward Mackenzie Smith (Burnaby, BC). Named a PACWEST Second Team All-Star at year’s end, along with Ohama and Cunningham, Smith led the Blues with an average of 7.6 rebounds per game. She also added 10.1 points and 1.1 assists per contest while shooting 45.0% from the field.

Smith was the only player for the Blues to play and start all 17 games last season for the Blues (2-0 forfeit vs. CBC Bearcats on February 15th). She ranked fifth in the PACWEST in terms of rebounds per game (7.6) and total blocked shots (15). Smith posted a pair of double-doubles over the course of the year, as well.

The third and final key returning forward from last year’s roster is Devon Wood (North Vancouver, BC). Over her 17 regular season appearances, seven of which were starts, Wood averaged 7.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game while shooting 39.4% from the field and 69.6% from the free throw line.

Wood started six of the first seven games last season, and performed well on the offensive end. She reached double-figures in four of those seven games, a stretch that included a 14-points, 10-rebound outing against CBC on November 16th.

With the losses in the back court, the guard rotation is where there will be opportunities for players to step up and expand their respective roles. Guard Kirsten Abo (Richmond, BC) is the top returnee in terms of assists per game (2.6 apg), and will look to continually be a steadying presence at the point guard spot. In addition to her assist numbers, Abo averaged 5.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game over 17 appearances in 2019-20.

Davignon, Alanya
What will the 2020-21 season have in store for Alanya Davignon, and what will she have in store for her second season in the PACWEST? (Source: Capilano Blues)

It will be interesting to see what Alanya Davignon (Port Coquitlam, BC) has in store for Year Two with the Blues. She posted 3.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game last season on 40.4% shooting from the field. Davignon was named to the PACWEST All-Rookie Team as a result of her on-court efforts last season.

“With what we have returning and what we have coming in, I feel we will be stronger than last season, with more depth and size,” said Weimer. “Excited to get out and play up tempo and aggressive basketball this coming season.”

The Blues return a significant number of players from last year’s group, but they also welcome a talented recruiting class that’s loaded with potential impact players for the 2020-21 season.

Incoming Talent

When asked about the group of incoming talent he has, Weimer didn’t hide his excitement.

“I think this is probably the best recruiting class we’ve ever had,” said Weimer. “Our four true rookies are full of athleticism and potential and have big game experience.”

“Along with our four rookies, we add four transfers, all (who are) potential starters.”

The Blues welcome two pairs of former teammates from the high school ranks, two PACWEST All-Stars from the 2019-20 season, a transfer from the UBC Thunderbirds, and a transfer from south of the border to round out the recruiting class.

First, the Blues have added guards Madeleine Counsell (Port Moody, BC) and Jenna Griffin (Port Moody, BC) from Heritage Woods.

Weimer on Counsell: “She loves to play defense, and it shows. Her tough as nails attitude and high basketball IQ along with her relentless heart and hustle make her an asset at both ends of the court.”

Weimer on Griffin: “She is an exciting and dynamic player who can punish opponents from inside and out. Her ability to get to the rim and finish or feed her teammates coupled with her deep shooting range make her a tough assignment for any team. Also, a crafty defender, Jenna is highly effective on and off the ball. One of the top 4A guards in the Province this past season, I am confident Jenna will have an immediate impact in her rookie campaign in the PACWEST.”

Next, the Blues have added forwards Julia Gocal (North Vancouver, BC) and Hope Pearmain (North Vancouver, BC), adding more depth to the front court mix.

Weimer on Gocal: “I have had the pleasure of coaching Julia over the past few years at the North Vancouver School District Basketball Academy. Her development and progress from grade 10 to 12 has been amazing. She has become a dominant rebounder who can finish around the rim and alter opponents’ shots, making her a real handful inside.”

Weimer on Pearmain: “Another product of the North Vancouver School District Basketball Academy, she oozes athleticism and potential. Her ability to handle the ball, shoot inside and out, finish at the rim, rebound and play tough defense make her a very flexible asset. At 5’10 she has the ability to play the 2,3 or 4 spots.”

In terms of transfers, the Blues have added a pair from the PACWEST, both of whom were named All-Stars and ranked among the league leaders in several categories last season. Capilano has added both guard Emma Jones (Camas, Wash.) and forward Meagan Briggs (Redding, Calif.) to their roster for the 2020-21 season.

Jones, Emma
It’s not every day that you add a pair of Conference All-Stars to your roster, but Emma Jones (above) and Meagan Briggs have committed to the Capilano Blues and Head Coach Chris Weimer for the 2020-21 season. (Source: Langara Falcons)

Jones led the PACWEST in both points per game (15.9) and rebounds per game (8.6) during the 2019-20 season, while also finishing fifth in terms of field goal percentage (43.8%) and third in three-point percentage (35.6%). She was named a PACWEST First Team All-Star for her efforts, and will look to continue her personal success while looking to help the Blues return to Nationals.

Not to be outdone, Briggs had herself an impressive 2019-20 season in her own right. Briggs ranked third in points per game (14.3) and rebounds per game (8.2) last season, and was named a PACWEST Second Team All-Star.

Weimer and the Blues have also added forward Tanis Metcalfe (North Vancouver, BC) from UBC. Last season, Metcalfe averaged 5.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game over 18 regular season appearances. In search of a fresh start, Metcalfe will add even more size and depth to an already-talented front court rotation.

Rounding out the group of additions is guard Megan Still (Hillsboro, Oreg.). Last season with the Eastern Oregon Univ. Mountaineers in the NAIA, Still averaged 8.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game as a junior over 31 games. Prior to joining the Mountaineers, Still was an All-Team Defensive Player of the Year at Lane Community College.

From top to bottom, the Blues have added a loaded recruiting class to a talented group of returnees. With a total of 18 players expected at the start of the year, there will be some red-shirts and cuts coming, but the level of competition at practice and tryouts will be nothing short of exceptional.

With the start of the year still up in the air, it’d be easy to look ahead and get yourself too excited for what could potentially happen. For Weimer and his staff, they’re keeping things in perspective.

“Our goal every year is to win the Provincial Championship and compete for a National Title,” concluded Weimer. “Knowing we likely won’t be playing any games until the New Year, I think it will be important to get in game shape and game ready in the fall so when the time comes we can hit the court running.

“Team building will be a priority for us, on and off the court in the fall. With eight new players and uncertain times, it’s of the utmost importance to bond and build a strong community among players and staff.”

Capilano has their sights set on a Provincial Championship, and more, in 2020-21. With a strong group of returnees leading the way, plus a loaded recruiting class coming in, they have high hopes and aspirations for the new season. Given the way last season ended, having that as extra motivation may push the Blues to achieving all of their goals in 2020-21.

Be sure to bookmark our 2020-21 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.

– T. Bennett

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