By John DeCoste
Impressive pre-season records are becoming the rule rather than the exception, for the Acadia women’s basketball team.
The goal for head coach Bev Greenlaw and his players is to translate their pre-season success into the regular season. And a big key to doing that, as Greenlaw knows from past experience, is staying healthy.
Acadia wrapped up the 2011 pre-season with a 7-1 record after a lopsided 85-50 win over Waterloo Oct. 29 in Wolfville.
The Axewomen were 6-2 in the pre-season a year ago and a perfect 7-0 in 2009, but ended up hampered by injuries to key players in the regular seasons that followed.
“Yes, 7-1 is pretty good. Yes, we’re improving. And yes, the hard part starts now, with the regular season,” Greenlaw said last week.
Acadia led 27-15 after one quarter against Waterloo and cruised to victory, allowing Greenlaw to substitute freely. All 15 players got at least seven minutes playing time, and all but two scored points.
Kristy Moore and Lindsay Harris led a balanced offense with 11 points each. Abbey Duinker had 10 points and seven rebounds in 12 minutes, and Rita Sibo chipped in nine points in 12 minutes off the bench.
The Axewomen now await their regular season opener, Nov. 9 at Dalhousie.
Acadia’s schedule is top-loaded with four-point contests, with their first three games and four of their first six worth four points in the standings.
Acadia’s 11-9 regular season record last year included a 7-4 record at home, 4-5 on the road.
“Winning on the road in this league is a hard thing to do. I thought we started to do that last season. Our goal this year is to continue to do better against our league, both at home and on the road.”
Greenlaw wasn’t making any predictions for the season, only to say that if the Axewomen can stay healthy, “some people may be surprised how improved we are.”
He was pleased with what the team achievement in the pre-season.
“We approached things a little differently this year, concentrating more on team efficiency things than individual skills development,” he said.
“We wanted to be more ‘team-ready’ earlier, and I think we are. Now we have to shift again and identify a set of improvements for each player. And the big question, as always, is can we keep all our players healthy?”
The Axewomen got another piece of good news with the Nov. 1 release of the first CIS top-10 of the season, which had Acadia sitting seventh in the national rankings. It marks the third straight year the Axewomen have been ranked in the CIS top-10 based on their pre-season record.
Wide-open race for conference title
It looks like anyone of a handful of teams could win the Atlantic conference this season.
Acadia coach Bev Greenlaw sees Cape Breton as the pre-season favourite. Memorial appears improved, Saint Mary’s and St. F.X. will be talented and UPEI is “definitely much better” than last year.
Dalhousie and UNB, both of which have lost key players and haven’t been as impressive record-wise so far, would appear to be the wildcards along with Acadia.
“From what we’ve seen so far, it appears any team in the league can beat any other team on any given night,” Greenlaw said.
And barring any serious injuries to key players, the Axewomen look like they will be right there.
“This will be by far the closest thing to a veteran team we’ve had since I’ve been coaching here,” said Greenlaw, entering his fourth season as head coach.
“We’re still young in the eyes of many, but we’ve always played our young players in major roles.”
This year’s Axewomen “have six players, second year or more, with major playing minutes under their belts,” plus a talented crop of newcomers.
With more experience than in the past, “the major difference is that this year, our first-year players may not get as many minutes, but their roles will be just as critical.”