High expectations for women’s team
By TERRY FARRELL
Herald-Tribune sports editor
After making it to the ACAC Final Four in the 2006-07 season, coach Kim Gravengard has high expectations for the GPRC women’s basketball program this year.
The Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves hit the hard court for their first tournament of the pre-season in Red Deer this weekend and Gravengard is hopeful last year’s successes will carry over into the 07/08 campaign.
“We’re fielding a very veteran team this year,” said Gravengard, who takes over the head coaching duties this year after three seasons as an assistant. “I have 10 returning players, so it’s a very experienced, mature team that are setting big goals for this season. We made it to the Final Four for the first time in team history last year and with the majority of the team returning, there’s no reason why we can’t do that again.”
Anything less would be unacceptable to Gravengard and her players.
“Nothing less this year and that’s not just me saying that,” she said. “My girls have set those expectations themselves. I have three fifth-year players, two fourth-years, some thirds and seconds. I really only have a couple of girls fresh out of high school, so the experience on our team is pretty good. Usually you can only hope of getting that kind of experience on any one team at the college level. Most girls only stay two, maybe three years. So this team is stacked with leadership.”
Among the key returnees are Jaelle Duinker and fifth-year veteran Jen Seemann. After a stint down in Calgary with the Calgary Dinos in 2006-07, former Wolves guard (and Duinker’s older sister) Melissa Bueller also makes her return to the Wolves den in time for the coming season.
Another former Wolf returning to the fold for another go-round is Krista Ciura, who has spent the past couple of seasons in Edmonton at the University of Alberta.
“She hasn’t played with the college for a few years, but came back from the University of Alberta (and) transferred from her nursing program and hopped on board with our program,” said Gravengard, adding the likes of guards Erin Slemp and Erica Rude are also back, as is guard Lisa Deneault and Melanie Patterson, a second-year point guard.
The tournament in Red Deer is ‘jamboree-style’ – strictly a pool tournament, with no playoff round. The Wolves will face the University of Calgary Dinos, Red Deer College and the Grant McEwan Griffins.
“Generally at this tournament they try to match up the north teams against the south teams, for some variety,” she said of the Wolves’ draw. “But there are more north teams in it than south teams, so we will end up with a game against Grant McEwan, who we play four times in league play. But we get to play Red Deer, who we don’t normally play and U of C, who we never play, so it will be a good experience.”
While a winning record at any tournament is always a goal, Gravengard is laying more importance on the learning curve for this one.
“We’re really more concerned with them learning the system and getting to know each other,” she said. “Even though most of them have played together before, every season is a new season and it takes some time for the girls to get used to one another all over again. This weekend is all about figuring out who goes where and how the offence is run. I think it will be a good weekend and it’s always a good experience to get onto the court for the first game.”