By Rodrigo Verney, April 2 2022—
The women’s Dinos basketball team’s season came to end last Sunday, March 6. The newly formed group faced off against the best-seeded team in the playoffs in a very close match that resulted in a contested and entertaining clash of coaching styles, control of the pacing, and precision scoring.
This amazing collective effort was an all-or-nothing situation in which the Dinos had to give everything to pull the major upsetter that they set out to achieve. Many would argue that even though the result wasn’t the one that the Dinos expected, they were happy with how far they came and how much they’ve done. Losing by a ten-point margin, the Dinos have left their mark on the court and on the notepad of every coach that faces us from now on.
The Dinos had a decent run, qualifying at the second round even though they were below the .500 conference-wise. Even with the pressure to cohost this playoffs, the team was able to win against their long-time matchup, the University of Victoria.
Although they advanced to play against the Huskies in the next round, Head Coach Damian Jennings’ defensive schemes were noteworthy throughout the whole match, especially in the fourth quarter, where the rotations on the zone defense never left a wide-open shot and communication set the bar very high for the Huskies offense. Their defense left the number one seeded Huskies taking jump shots that often came contested and off-balance.
This season will be remembered for far more than just the wins and the playoff games played here at the Jack Simpson. This special season will stay on the minds of every athlete, student, and fan as the moment we were able to come back from a devastating event shared by the whole world and how we made the most of it.
Hence, to better understand how this return to action and postseason experience has been for the basketball community, the Gauntlet sat down with Jennings to chat about the season as a whole, now that we can look back and appreciate the highs and the lows of this amazing ride.
Jennings shared with us his thoughts on the tug of war he faced at the beginning of the COVID policies, and how he managed to stay ahead of the news to understand the best way to prepare for this reopening season.
“It’s a strange one because it was a bit of a slow start, even the previous year when we didn’t have an actual formal schedule. It was emotionally quite challenging to reflect upon because you just never knew, you always almost had that little bit of, I call it, carrot-and-stick,” he said. “You’re kind of dangled in front of you that you may be able to train in a few weeks’ time, or if we get this kind of statistic, we’ll turn the corner and we could be back.”
Although this process was very tiring for the many people involved, whether they were officials or athletes, it was all worth it for them to finally see some playing time.
“It’s been exciting to come back,” said Jennings. “It was more tiring of a year than people will ever know. So, to have something even though it resembles a little bit of a divisional close geography model, it has been exciting to be back and playing.”
Thinking back to the postseason, coach Jennings shared his thoughts on the season wrap-up and how the performance of the team was perceived by the coaching staff. He soon emphasized how the most important factor was the fresh faces on the roster.
“Well, I think that the challenge for us personally, was that, when we started the season, we had 14 new players, we always knew there was going to be some bending in process”.
Furthermore, he added, “We had a number of first-years coming in, which was great. And then we were just really reviewing, you know, who would come back to do master’s programs out of the fourth, fifth years, that type of scenario, as their eligibility clock obviously starts to mature and take over, you know, sometimes what the basketball decisions might be.”
Even though he believes that the new faces gave a fresh start on the season, Jennings also mentioned some key components that were absent from this year’s lineup.
“The killer piece for us was just losing Mackenzie, Bobby Joe, and then Kennedy Hollinger,” he said. “McKenzie never even played for us, but she’s going to be a very, very good player on the national level, let alone the conference level. Bobby Joe obviously was an all-star for us prior to that final year when we went to nationals. And Kennedy Hollinger, I think would have been in a similar situation this year — she would have been looking at a rookie all-star nod as well.”
Regardless of the adjustments, Jennings is very satisfied with the results achieved by our Dinos this year.
“We are hard to beat, we’ve been up a couple of times against very mature strong teams, like Lethbridge in Alberta this year, particularly strong and mature.”
Little did he know that his answer would be a perfect segway for the next topic — playoffs. With the Dinos facing off against one of their oldest competitors, dating back to the beginning of the two universities, the Vikes posed a serious threat. Jennings acknowledged the history between the two schools, being able to recollect a lot of encounters during his coaching years. He even praises the newly appointed Vikes coach Carrie Watts.
“She’s well versed on what it is to win, she’s well versed in what it is to put together a competitive program. So she may be starting with Victoria but she’s able to transition into that role with a great deal of experience,” he said.
Regarding our matchup against the Huskies, Jennings always seemed focused and ready to face them regardless of their position in the brackets.
“There’s no fear of playing Saskatchewan, there’s no doubt about that,” said Jennings. “It’s just a bit different this year because it’ll be about our youth expressing itself against them.”
This loss is an opportunity to grow, and the Dinos will only improve from this point. I believe I speak for every fan when I say that we are already excited for the new season to roll around.