WOLFVILLE, NS - The goal for every university varsity athlete should be to continue improving throughout their career and make their final year their best.
Basketball Axewomen veteran Alexandra (Allie) Berry appears well on her way to doing just that.
Midway through her fifth and final season with the Axewomen, Berry was averaging 14.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, among the conference leaders in both categories. She stood fourth in total rebounds through 10 games with 98, and led the conference in field goal percentage at 54.9.
In the process, the six-foot-one Yarmouth native broke the Axewomen career rebounding record of 660, previously set by Abbey Duinker in the 2013-2014 season.
In an 84-63 win Jan. 10 at St. F.X., Berry finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds to break the record. As of Jan. 15, her career total stood at 678 rebounds, of which 272 were offensive and 406 defensive.
“It was super exciting to break the record,” Berry said. “People look at rebounding as an individual stat, but in order for us to secure the ball, everybody has a part to play.”
Berry was especially pleased to break a record held by Duinker, who is now playing professionally in France.
“I played with Abbey my first year, and I remember when she broke the (rebounding) record. It was an exciting time for her,” she said.
“I learned a lot from Abbey. I'm really happy she's doing so well playing professionally.”
Size, athletic ability, tenacity and a sense of anticipation are all major factors in being a good rebounder, but Berry says, “a lot of the time, it's a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”
‘Gone so quickly’
Now that she is in her fifth and final year at Acadia, Berry is more aware than ever how fleeting a university athletic career can be.
“I can't believe it's gone so quickly,” she said. “It almost doesn't feel real. People tell you when you get here that five years will seem short, but you don't really believe it until it happens.”
She says she planned all along to be at Acadia for five years, and spread out her courses accordingly.
“I think I'd have regretted it if I hadn't played a fifth year,” she added.
Berry's fifth season has been a historic one for the Axewomen thus far. Midway through the regular season schedule, the team was undefeated at 10-0 in conference play, had an 18-1 season record and have been #1 in the USports national rankings for women's basketball since before Christmas.
“It's a really exciting year for us,” Berry said, adding that it's really no surprise the team is doing so well, given that the team has been building toward this season for the past five years.
“We all worked really hard all summer, and had a really good rookie class come in.”
Berry, Chanel Smith, Katie Ross and Paloma Anderson are all in their fifth year, and head coach Len Harvey has put together a strong supporting cast of emerging players.
“Our work ethic, setting small goals and achieving them, and taking it one game at a time,” Berry says, are all keys to their success.
Calling the Axewomen “the best team I've ever been on,” she has a lot of history with her teammates. She played alongside Ross and Smith on a provincial U-17 team that captured silver at nationals.
The Axewomen, she added, play very much a team game.
“We're at our best when we get the ball moving and everybody is scoring. We can all handle the ball, and we can all defend the ball,” she said.
Moreover, Acadia has so many weapons, “you can't just stop one of us, you have to be able to stop all five of us that are on the floor.”
Berry and her teammates aren't thinking at all about finishing the season unbeaten in conference play, although that is a possibility.
“We just focus on our next game, play one at a time and go from there,” she said.
While she will be “sad to leave” when the time comes, Berry isn’t thinking about that yet.
“Right now, all of us fifth-year players aren't thinking about that – not yet,” she said, and not with unfinished business yet to complete.
Berry believes the veteran talent and leadership on the team is a real asset.
“We've all played together for so long, and grown so much together, (embracing) different leadership roles,” she says. “We're all different, but in other ways, we're all the same, in that we all know what's best for the team and the program.”
The ultimate goal is to win the AUS banner, she adds, and to be competitive at nationals.
“We all want to do whatever will make the team as a whole successful,” she said. “It's important that we focus on the present and not get ahead of ourselves.”
Despite her focus on the season, Berry does at times think about the future after Acadia. She is set to graduate in May with a degree in community development and isn’t sure what she will be doing after that.
But, she adds, her degree opens up a lot of doors for her. While returning to Yarmouth may not be in the cards, remaining in the Wolfville area is possible.
“I've really loved my studies,” she said. “I'd love to be able to work in the community.”
Berry has no regrets at all about the decision she made five years ago to choose Acadia.
“I absolutely love it here,” she said. “There's something special about this place you can't put your finger on. You don't know it until you get here, but everyone gets the feeling.”