Women's National Basketball Championships

March 10th, 2013

VIU will face the Dawson College Blues, Thursday March 14th at 2pm our time,  in the first round of the 2013 CCAA National Basketball Championships. Follow all the action on the NATIONALS WEBSITE ..including live video webcasts!!

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More hills to climb at national championships
VIU enters nationals as No. 6 seed, plays No. 3 Dawson first
 
Josh Aldrich
Daily News

 

The Vancouver Island University Mariners women's basketball team has come a long way this year, but their journey is not over yet.

First thing this morning, they will board a plane headed for the other side of the country.

They are off to Dalhousie-Agricultural Campus in Truro, N.S., for the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association national championships.

VIU has been an underdog for much of the season, and will continue to be one in Truro. Despite winning the Pacific Western Athletic Association championship, they head in as the No. 6 seed.

Still, they are undeterred, and have their sites set on gold.

"Our goal is to win a championship," said head coach Bill McWhinnie. "We are provincial champions's I think our chances are as good as anybody's" The Mariners have been one of the great stories in college basketball this year. After struggling to a 2-4 start, and battling injuries and other issues that kept three of their top players out of the lineup, they rallied to a 13-2 finish and a 15-6 mark overall.

They went into the PacWest championship as the No. 2 seed, a tournament that has haunted them for years, and beat the No. 1 seed Capilano University Blues 65-55 for the title.

The lessons have been many this season, but this is the time of the year when they will really pay off.

"Throughout everything, even though it seemed like a lot, we learned from it," said Mariners point guard Jocelyn Jones. "It helped us become a better team and helped us be prepared for anything. I think we didn't get used to something going wrong, but we learned how to adapt to something if something does go wrong."

Jones was named PacWest tournament MVP and missed four games earlier this year with a hamstring injury. When she returned after Christmas, finally healthy, Jones kick started the Mariners' turnaround. Her season was capped by being named to the PacWest first all-star team. Fourth-year forward Shayna Worthington has spent her entire college career at VIU. She has experienced a lot of the heartache the team has gone through since McWhinnie took over five seasons ago.

But she's better for it. "I've worked up to it over the years and it finally feels like all that work has paid off," said Worthington, who was also named a PacWest first team all-star. "We just need to stay calm in the heat of the moment, take our time and play our game."

Nationals will be a new experience for everyone on the Mariners. There is a lot of unknowns ahead for them, although McWhinnie has grilled former men's head coach Tony Bryce and women's volleyball head coach Shane Hyde about their experiences.

"We expect the teams are going to be very good, we talked about how to prepare our team for nationals and what we need to do to be successful," said McWhinnie.

Jones has actually come close to what she expects the nationals level atmosphere, having gone to the state championships in high school while growing up in Seattle, and making it to the conference championships her first year of college at Highline Community College.

"I think I'm well prepared, I think I'm going to be used to the crowd," said Jones. "All of those years have prepared me for now." McWhinnie will need a strong week out of both Jones and Worthington, as well as Heather McCarthy, Erin Vecic and Alicia Grossi as well as contributions from their bench, if they are to be in the conversation for the gold.

The Mariners face the No. 3 Dawson Blues, the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec silver medalists out of Montreal, in their first game on Thursday at 2 p.m. PST.

Winning the first game is always crucial at the CCAA championships as a loss will mean the best they can do is a bronze medal.

McWhinnie says they'll have their work cut out for themselves against the Blues.

"I expect it to be a full-court game, they're very athletic, they've got some very good players, they want to play up-and-down - which is the opposite of us," said McWhinnie. "So it's going to be two different styles and we'll see who can impose their style on the other team."