Wolves women enter break on a roll
Sweep over Lakeland gives Wolves 9-5 record
Wolves guard Erin Slemp leaps past Lakeland's Hallie Eggie en route to a basket during play Saturday in Lloydminster. Jeremy Broadfield/Sun Media
Now the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves women's basketball team knows how other teams feel when they pay a visit to the Wolves GPRC gymnasium home den.
The Wolves boarded the bus last weekend and fled for the border with a pair of games on the slate Friday and Saturday in Lloydminster against the Lakeland Rustlers.
While the Wolves did indeed get a taste of the medicine opposing teams have to deal with when they come to the GPRC gym, the visitors were nonetheless able to thrive on foreign soil, pulling out an 80-68 victory Friday and following that up with a 62-56 win Saturday.
That wraps up the Wolves' first semester at 9-5, good for a tie for second place in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference North Division with the King's University College Eagles (9-5).
"It's really hard to win in their gym," said Wolves guard Melanie Patterson. "The atmosphere there is kind of like coming here and trying to win here when everybody is cheering against you. They play really hard."
Wolves head coach Kim Gravengard had her own take on playing on the Rustlers' home turf.
"It's kind of like stepping into the Twilight Zone. They're a team that plays very well at home. It's a physical game," she said. "The girls pushed through and it was tough sometimes. There was a lot of contact. Mel took a few vicious blows to the floor. You just kind of have to get yourself up and play through it. (We got) two wins and that's what we were looking for."
Focusing on the finer points of their game proved key in both wins, said Patterson.
"That's one thing we've been talking about for a while. Sometimes we get too focused on the big picture and having to get the wins. So we came into the weekend just trying to think of the small things we could do that could win us the games, like boxing out and rebounding, just the smaller things that would result in the outcome."
With the sweep in the Border City secured, the Wolves now take a bit of a holiday breather of sorts, helping out at the annual Wolves High School Basketball Invitation this weekend – along with the men's Wolves hoops team – before heading to Toronto in the New Year for a tournament.
With 14 games on the slate and a demanding first semester, the Wolves have set themselves up well for when the second semester begins in January, said Gravengard.
"It gives you a little more of a break for the second half so when you push in to those playoff spots you get a little more rest. You're not as fatigued emotionally, mentally and physically," she said. "Last year was heavy for us. We went nine weeks by the time playoffs (started) and then the final-four came. We had a lot of girls tired, not just physically, but mentally. That's a lot of basketball to be played straight with no break. So I'm happy with where we're standing right now. The girls are really confident. They're just starting to gel together."
With their trip to the ACAC final four last year and their solid 9-5 start to this season, the Wolves have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
And with that territory comes heightened expectations, said Patterson.
"Last year it was a totally different experience because we were the underdogs," said Patterson. "So nobody expected that little school from Grande Prairie to come and do anything. So this year a lot of teams are gunning for us and we're one of the teams to beat. So I think it's been a bit of a struggle to begin with, to have to try and play with those expectations. But as each game goes on we're getting better and better at dealing with it.