By Sean Rooney on November 5, 2016.
Their offence and systems still a work in progress, the Medicine Hat College Rattlers women’s basketball team stepped up their defensive intensity to open the season with a win Friday.
At the Snake Pit in front of a couple hundred fans, the Rattlers beat Briercrest 83-61 by matching and sometimes exceeding the effort of a team with simply less talent on the floor.
“We were a little rusty just because we hadn’t played a league game, so the nerves were there in the first quarter,” said second-year guard Sheridan Popenia. “But we shook them off and were good to go.”
Few statistics were available from the game due to problems with a new system and website instituted by the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, but the Rattlers veterans provided most of the scoring punch. Fourth-year post Kennedy Werre had 28 points including a few three-pointers, third-year guard Megan Getz poured in 18 and fifth-year post Dragana Vukovic had six.
“I knew they’ve got a lot of great shooters, we were just trying to compete,” said Clippers coach Dwight Olney. “We’re pretty young, I’m happy. We battled well, just a little out of control with our passing.”
The visitors cut the lead to single digits a few times, but never seemed a threat to get closer. Popenia was among the workhorses for Medicine Hat, especially on the defensive end where Briercrest couldn’t find much of a rhythm either.
“She’s really long so she made some deflections, got some rebounds for us, she battled hard which we needed,” said Rattlers coach Clayton Nielsen. “She put a lot of work in this summer to get stronger and tougher, and it’s paying off for her now.”
With some major injury problems even before the first tip-off of the campaign, Popenia and some other Rattlers are being forced in to larger roles than they might have expected. Against Briercrest, a team that rarely makes the playoffs in the ACAC, that meant good experience and likely some confidence as well.
The larger test on opening weekend is Saturday night in Lethbridge against the Kodiaks, who didn’t lose a game until the playoffs last season. But Nielsen, whose last college coaching gig ended in 2011 in Fort McMurray, was happy to get the first W out of the way early.
“It was awesome, good to be coaching a game,” he said. “It’s good to win. And the team responds well to any corrections we’re doing or any kind of challenge, they meet that, they want to do well.
“To win the first game is always nice, you’re not going to win them all so you win one, enjoy it and love it and then tomorrow’s a new day.”
In the late men’s game, the score was 92-63 although no information was available by press time.