Taking on one of the most talented and experienced teams in the nation on Thursday evening, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball squad endured some growing pains while showing plenty of promise.
The Cascades dropped a 92-58 decision to the Saskatchewan Huskies in their first game of the Cougar Classic, a preseason tournament hosted by the University of Regina.
“You look at the scoreboard, and it’s not that pretty to look at,” UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer noted. “But there were really a ton of learning opportunities for us tonight. We had stretches where we did some really good things tonight, and some stretches where we didn’t. That’s where the learning comes in.”
The Huskies are a seasoned crew boasting fifth-year stars like Dalyce Emmerson, Laura Dally and Kelsey Truslrud, and they’re coming off a 2014-15 campaign which saw them finish fourth at CIS nationals.
The Cascades’ entire starting lineup, meanwhile, was comprised of players who weren’t on the squad last season. Taylor Claggett and Kate Head are rookies straight out of high school, Sydney Williams and Shayna Cameron are transfers, and veteran Kayli Sartori rejoined the team this fall after taking 2014-15 off.
Moreover, the Cascades were missing standout power forward Katie Brink and guards Hailey Kendall and Kendra Arnold on Thursday due to injury.
The Huskies looked the part of a Canada West favourite in the first quarter, racing out to a 35-7 lead. But Tuchscherer’s charges responded by out-scoring Saskatchewan 24-6 in the second quarter, thus trimming the deficit to 41-31 at the break.
The Cascades stayed within 10 points for much of the third quarter, but the Huskies pulled away and extended the lead beyond 20 points in the fourth.
Cameron (13 points), Kaitlyn McDonald (11) and Sartori (10) scored in double figures for UFV, while Dally and Sabine Dukate led Saskachewan’s balanced attack with 16 points apiece.
“It’s a team that’s in a different place than we are right now, especially with us being shorthanded this weekend,” Tuchscherer said. “We played them tough. . . . We were hanging in there within 10 for most of the third quarter, and then we fall asleep for a couple possessions.”
Tuchscherer said that tangling with the Huskies was a great growth experience for his younger players – particularly Claggett, a 5’11” post player out of Abbotsford’s Mennonite Educational Institute who had the unenviable task of guarding Emmerson, Saskatchewan’s 6’3” superstar centre. Emmerson, the Canada West MVP and defensive player of the year in 2014, went for 12 points and six rebounds, but Claggett held her own, posting six points and a team-high eight boards while earning a game-high 10 free throws.
“It’s a phenomenal learning experience for her and some of our younger kids,” Tuchscherer said. “Taylor was great. She drew some fouls, got to the line, got some stuff in transition, did some things on defence. It was great to see that from her.”
The Cascades face another stiff test on Friday as they take on the host Regina Cougars (7 p.m. Central time), and they wrap up the tourney against the Guelph Gryphons on Saturday (10 a.m. Central).