By Sean Rooney on October 12, 2018.
There’s no clear-cut MVP to lean on, but that might make the Medicine Hat College women’s basketball team even more dangerous than the roster which went to nationals in the spring.
With conference player of the year and all-time rebounding queen Kennedy Werre graduated, the Rattlers return seven players to the hardwood and add two others with Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference experience.
“Poise, that’s what we’re looking for,” said head coach Clayton Nielsen ahead of tonight’s season opener. “When you look at (the returning players), the fallback is what did we do last year to get to where we went?
“We’re maybe more team-focused because of that.”
Led by fifth-year guard Kendell Kuntz and fourth-year forward Kristen Skjonsby, Medicine Hat has depth, experience and familiarity on its side. Of the new additions, only one hails from outside southern Alberta.
“We thought we were going to lose a lot… All of our rookies, only three are real rookies and they’re adapting real well,” said Skjonsby. “It’s just getting them experience playing at the ACAC level, I think they’ll be fine, a great addition to our team.”
Skjonsby wasn’t a top scorer in past years but doesn’t have to be to lead a team that Nielsen figures has a full lineup’s worth of 15-point-per-game talents. Defence will be key as the Rattlers miss Werre under the hoop, but there are other up-and-comers, like second-year Katelyn Rozdeba, ready to seize the opportunity and keep Medicine Hat near the top of the standings.
“We’re a lot smaller this year,” said Rozdeba. “I played point guard all my life, halfway through last year I started becoming a post. So I’m trying to work on post and rebounds, finishing down low.”
The Rattlers open at the Snake Pit at 6 p.m. tonight against Calgary’s St. Mary’s University — the team that edged them for a conference title and dealt them one final blow at nationals in New Brunswick. Not much is known about the Lightning, which didn’t play any Alberta teams in the pre-season, but between tonight and Saturday’s home date with Olds, the Rattlers are certainly getting a good early test.
“It’s going to be scary, it sounds like we play the same way,” said Nielsen. “It’s going to be fast, a lot of pace, we’ll see who handles that the best.”
Nielsen didn’t expect Australian guard Morgan Muir back for a fourth season, and Kuntz’s injured knees will always be a question mark, so the additions of third-year hometown player Kiana Mintz (formerly with Olds and Red Deer) and second-year Hayley LePard (formerly with Lethbridge College) make Medicine Hat a team with lots of potential.
Now the challenge is turning that into results.
“We’re just lacking experience and playing together,” said Nielsen. “It’ll come.”
As for the men’s side, a trio of fifth-year players leads Medicine Hat into its 8 p.m. opener against St. Mary’s. Jaamel Slack, DeAngelo Ashley and Osato Obaseki have the experience but there are also six rookies listed on the Rattlers’ website. Third-year guards Jon Sappleton and Josh Magpantay are also back.
The team went 2-4 in the pre-season, including a respectable 101-84 loss to the University of Lethbridge at Hat High Sept. 29. After going 16-5 last season the Rattlers lost twice in the playoffs and should be motivated to get back.
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