Harle’s hoopsters take aim at season

Despite an impressive 2-1 result at this weekend’s University of Calgary Invitational, the Dinos women’s basketball team face a number of challenges in the season ahead.

They downed the McMaster University Marauders 91-65 on Friday, lost to the University of Regina Cougars 92-79 on Saturday and managed to score a narrow 80-78 victory over the Universite Quebec à Montreal Carabins, but head coach Shawnee Harle is focused on what these early results mean.

“I think the bigger picture is we are 6-3 in non-conference play,” says Harle. “The biggest thing that I take away from that is that it far exceeds the expectations that I had for this young team.”

With the exception of two veteran players, Megan Lang and Ashley Hill, this year’s team is comprised of still-green players in their first or second years.

“You always feel that with a young team, that if you can be .500 in non conference . . . that’s pretty good,” says Harle. “This group has made me raise the bar earlier than I thought I was going to have to.”

She had anticipated it taking as long as late November or early January for the team to hit their stride, but now believes the team to be weeks ahead on the learning curve.

“It’s great to ride the wave right now,” says Harle. “Things are great, we’re happy, we’re working hard, we’re winning games.”

Despite the present optimism, this year isn’t going to be without its challenges for the young Dinos team. Harle is in her 16th season coaching the Dinos and knows how hard it is to stay happy for any length of time in Canada West.

“There are some teams that bring experience that we will not be able to match in any way shape or form,” she says. “There are teams in Canada West that will bring size that we cannot match in any way, shape or form.”

Harle is concerned with the team’s “banged-up and depleted” line-up, noting missing players are making the team “smaller and younger” than she would like. But even this can’t shake the team’s optimism.

“This team has really showed me that we might be out-experienced by some teams and certainly be out-sized by of a lot of teams but we will never be out-worked and we’re never out of a game, and if you ask any coach that’s been in this profession a long time I’d take those two things any day,” she says.

The Cougars handed the Dinos their only defeat of the weekend on Saturday, giving the Dinos a strong idea of the kind of experience they are up against this year. Boasting a combination of seasoned and young players, the experience of last year’s nationals and the bronze medal game the year before, the Cougars were a tough team to answer. They won’t be the only ones either. Another mid-October tournament in Toronto gave the Dinos ladies a chance to size up other competition.

“We saw [the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds] in the Toronto tournament — we didn’t play them, but they’re huge,” said Harle. “Simon Fraser is huge, Saskatchewan is going to be tough. I guess the best way of saying it in Canada West is that there are so few easy games we are going to have to bring our ‘A’ game every night.”

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