Alberta Champions Clash With Manitoba Champions In Basketball Preseason
The 2018 MCAC Women's Basketball Champions open their preseason on Thursday night in the Loewen Athletic Centre against a formidable opponent in the 2018 ACAC Women's Basketball Champions; Calgary's St. Mary's University Lightning.
St. Mary's have been the dominant force in Women's Basketball in the Alberta Collegiate Athletic Conference for the past three seasons, qualifying for the ACAC Championship Final in 2016 and 2017 and in their most recent season, taking the ultimate step forward by winning the 2018 ACAC banner. The Lightning have also qualified for the ACAC playoffs for four consecutive seasons.
This is the first time St. Mary's has made a trip east to Manitoba in their preseason. The Lightning are bringing back six returning players from the team that lifted the 2018 ACAC Championship trophy led offensively by third-year forward Emily Wagner who averaged 13.9 points per game in 2017-19 despite only starting 7 of 21 games.
"Our focus will be to improve every game and build our team play," said CMU head coach Joe DiCurzio, who's team last played St. Mary's in Edmonton at the Alberta Basketball Showcase tournament in 2014. "This will be a great opportunity for all of our first year players to play against a top-notch team. It will be a great test because our young players have been training extremely hard for this."
Di Curzio's squad is certainly a young one. The Blazers enter the 2018-19 season with 10 rookies eager to get their feet wet in university basketball. The senior member of the team, Jessica Marx-Houndle, a veteran of two seasons and entering her third, believes that this team is up for any challenge.
"Even though we are a young team again, the rookies are very eager to keep learning," said the two-time NIAC All-Conference selection. "When you have athletes who are so coachable like they are, we can adapt quickly to different challenges."
On Friday night, the Lightning will take on another MCAC and NIAC opponent when they travel south to Otterburne to tip-off with the Providence Pilots before returning to the Loewen on Saturday morning for the rubber match with the Blazers at 10:00 AM.
Women's Basketball continues their 2018-19 preseason on Thanksgiving Weekend when they travel west to Vancouver for exhibition action against the PacWest's Langara Falcons (October 5), Capilano Blues (October 6) and Douglas Royals (October 7).