Slemp one secret of Wolves' success
TERRY FARRELL - Herald-Tribune sports editor
December 5th, 2008
Erin Slemp showed up for the interview sporting yet another black eye.
Third time this season.
It comes as no surprise. In fact, it is somewhat fitting of her tenacious character.
"Battle scars," she said with a smile that almost hid the bruising.
It's been a heck of a 'swan song season' so far.
The fifth-year guard (third at Grande Prairie Regional College) has received constant praise from coach Kim Gravengard for her relentless efforts in the first half of the ACAC basketball season.
And why not?
Reputed as a defensive specialist, Slemp has drawn regular duty as the shut-down defender to opposing teams' biggest threats.
Clearly, she hasn't been backing down from anyone.
She has the bruises to prove it.
What Gravengard did not expect was Slemp's play at the other end of the court.
Her new-found offensive touch has been a bonus for the Wolves.
Slemp is second in team scoring, averaging more than 12 points per game. Her 24 points against The King's Univeristy College is the second-highest single game output by any member of the Wolves this year. Last weekend's 22-point game against Lakeland is the third highest. Her 25 steals also put her second on the squad.
But all that can be put aside, as far as Slemp is concerned.
"I'd rather have no points and see us win than score 30 in a loss," said the consummate team player.
In that regard, she must be doubly happy.
Going into the Christmas break, the Wolves boast a 10-4 record and sit in a three-way tie for second in the ACAC North. Only King's, at 11-3, have more wins.
Not bad for a crew with nine rookies on a roster of 16.
"It's going pretty well," said Slemp. "I was surprised, when we started the season, how good we were. We lost a lot of players from last year, so I figured we'd be OK, but not as good as last year."
The Wolves were 7-5 at the Christmas break last year.
Slemp gives credit to everyone for the improvement.
"We're just playing better as a team this year," she said. "I'm surprised at how quickly we came together. But having the returning players that we do, that leadership, has been key. When you look at the seven returnees, two fifth-years, a third-year, I think we're just mature enough that it makes it easy to play together. And it makes it easy on the rookies coming in, too."
One of the most beneficial features of this year's Wolves team is that there is not one single "go-to" girl on whom the opposition can focus. It's offence by committee, which can be confusing to for teams trying to shut down the Grande Prairie attack.
"That's the biggest advantage of our team," said Slemp. "On any given night, we might have five different girls scoring 10 or more points. Who do you stop? You stop me, Melissa (Buhler) takes over.
On most given nights, four Wolves are hitting double digits. Aside from Slemp, there's Buhler (16 points per game), Jaelle Duinker (11.5) and Tia Gerwatoski (10) all doing so on a consistent basis.
Laura Dunsdon has also had at least 10 points in four games this year.
It makes for a potent attack. But there's always room for improvement.
"We're playing the top teams really well, but having a lot of trouble with the bottom teams. We seem to play to the level of our opposition so we have to work on that."
It's crowded at the top of the ACAC North standings.
The top four teams (King's, MacEwan, GPRC and Concordia) have distanced themselves from the other teams in the division. NAIT sits fifth, a full seven games back, with only 11 remaining in the season.
Making the playoffs is almost a sure thing already.
But making the playoffs is not what the Wolves want.
They want to get to Nationals.
"And I think we can do it," said Slemp. "Our team is not scared of anyone. There is not a team we cannot play with in this league."
As for her play, she says it's been a great final year of college ball, so far.
"I'm just going out, playing and having fun this year," she said. "Last year and the year before, I'd be nervous before games, concerned about doing something wrong. This year it's all about just helping out any way I can. I don't worry about things and that has everything to do with the teammates I have playing with me. We definitely are a team."
The Wolves don't play another league game until Jan. 9, when they open the 2009 portion of the season in Edmonton at NAIT. The girls do have a heavy schedule planned for Christmas, however. The Wolves will head to Phoenix right after Christmas for a tournament in the desert.
"I think that's really going to help us as a team," said Slemp. "We're really going to be pumped by the time the second half of the season starts."
That could spell trouble for the rest of the ACAC North.