Wolves start shaky, end strong at SAIT
By TERRY FARRELL, Herald-Tribune staff
Wolves coach Dave Waknuk finally got a chance to see his girls on the basketball court against someone other than themselves over the weekend.
He liked what he saw.
The Wolves were in Calgary for the SAIT Trojans Fall Classic pre-season basketball tournament and after a shaky first game, falling 66-34 to the hosts, the Wolves put together a couple of wins for a 2-1 weekend.
They beat the Lethbridge Kodiaks 89-80 and the Red Deer Queens 56-46.
"I was really happy with the weekend," said Waknuk, who is entering his first full season as the head coach of the Wolves, after taking over halfway though the 2009-2010 campaign.
"We went in not having played much as a team. We have a veteran core with six players returning and six new players and it's going to take a little while to get to know each other.
"Our goal was to be a better team at the end of Game 3 than we were at the beginning of Game 1 and I really, really feel like we did that."
Being better than the 34-point effort put forth in Game 1 was not difficult.
"In the second game (against Lethbridge), we scored 37 points in the second quarter, after scoring 34 in the whole game the night before," said Waknuk.
"What really hurt us against SAIT is that we turned the ball over something like 57 times. So that's two bad college games, never mind one. It was a combination of a lot of things, things like nerves, pressure and to be honest with you, a little bit of intimidation.
"As the weekend went along, our confidence improved and things looked good. I think we opened some eyes a little bit, with our play in Calgary - I think we came in under the radar a bit - and I'm excited to see how we develop."
In years past, the pre-season was the only time a North Division team would see a South Division team prior to playoffs.
Not so this year. The regular season schedule has changed.
"It helped seeing these teams because we will see them again this year, with the new schedule," said Waknuk. "The way it will work is that the teams in the North Division, you will get them twice - a Friday/Saturday series. But when the South teams travel, we will see one team here on Friday and then a different South team here on Saturday. So they will play in Edmonton one day and here the next, or here first, then Edmonton."
Conversely, when the Wolves go south, they will have the same travel-heavy weekend. Their only Southern swing this season has them playing in Lethbridge one night and at Mount Royal in Calgary the next.
"I haven't spoken to anyone who likes this schedule yet - it's a lot of driving," said Waknuk.
"Then the teams you get at home this year, you have to visit next year.
"So we will have a 14- or 15-hour bus ride to Briercrest (Caronport, Sask.,), which I am not looking forward to. But that's next year.
"I just can't see this schedule lasting, but I think they are committed to it for two years."
Waknuk will not have to worry about his team being outsized at any time this season. The Wolves are the tallest squad in the ACAC, featuring three players at six-three.
Returnees Andria Carlyon and Katarina Fiavola, and rookie Martine Deinum from Barrhead, give the Wolves "triplet towers."
"We're definitely the biggest team in the league," said Waknuk. "There was one game this weekend where we had 62 rebounds.
"Add to that our point guard Lenka (Rohova) and our all-star Jaelle Buhler and we will be a pretty strong team this year."
Waknuk was not overly concerned with the apparent disparity between the Wolves and some of the other North Division teams, based on scores at the SAIT tournament.
Concordia, for instance, hammered Lethbridge 107-55 and beat SAIT 59-55.
Grant MacEwan beat Red Deer by 40 points and Lethbridge by 39.
"Scores I don't think were completely indicative of the play, but championships are not won in September and October," he said.
"We have a lot of room to grow, but we have a ton of potential and if we can get to where I believe we can get, we will be right up there with any team in this league."
Waknuk, along with assistants Bill Shaw and Lisa Deneault, have just over two weeks remaining to work out the finer details of the team systems with their players, before the squad heads to Edmonton for a season-opening two-game series against King's University College, Oct. 22-23.
The Wolves' home opener is Oct. 29 against MacEwan University.