After his team dropped three tough pre-season games on a west coast trip to British Columbia a few weeks ago, Memorial Sea-Hawks women's basketball coach Doug Partridge says he has a good idea on what needed to be worked on before they opened the 2009-10 Atlantic Universities Sport (AUS) season this weekend.
MUN lost games to the University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University on the trip.
"We went back to work for the start of the AUS season knowing that we need to be more consistent and some players have to start defining their roles and proving that they can be relied upon night after night," said Partridge, whose team hosts the Acadia University Axewomen 6 p.m. today and 11 a.m. Sunday at the Field House.
"Right now, it is a little too hit-and-miss in terms of what players are going to bring to the games."
Memorial finished second in the AUS last season with a 16-4 record before losing 86-63 to the Dalhousie Tigers in the semifinals.
"We are actually younger at several positions this year then we were last year, and we still haven't played a single game with our full roster. That probably won't happen until after Christmas," noted Partridge.
"We should be a solid basketball team and able to compete with everyone. Where we finish (will be determined) by how much we improve from now until the end of the season."
Acadia much improved
MUN will face an Acadia team that started 0-8 last season, but was 7-5 down the stretch using essentially freshmen and sophomores.
The Axewomen knocked off Carleton, University of Toronto, McGill, Queen's, the University Prince Edward Island (twice) and Dalhousie in pre-season play.
"We're better than last season," said Acadia coach Bev Greenlaw. "Our kids have developed nicely.
As for Acadia's weekend opposition, Greenlaw says the Sea-Hawks are "bigger than they've been in a long time. They are athletic and they are going to be very good.
"I think the league this year may be the strongest it's ever been," she added. "Right now, (defending AUS champion) Cape Breton University is still the very best team in the conference. MUN, St. FX, Dal, SMU and possibly ourselves will be getting after them. But CBU has returned everybody, so they have to be the pre-season favourite. "
Partridge agrees CBU is the team to beat.
"The Capers would have to be the favourites out of the gate," he said. "Everyone is back and they are the playoff hosts. Acadia is substantially improved, X is still tough, Saint Mary's got the top recruit in the country and several high-profile transfers and will be much better. It will be a very tough league."
Despite their strong finish last year and their impressive preseason, Partridge said he isn't necessarily worried about the Axewomen.
"Worried is not the right word," said Partridge. "You always honor your opponent in the sense that you expect them to bring their best effort. This (Acadia) is a team that now has a good amount of talent and will play much improved basketball.
"We will need to be solid in what we do and execute our stuff to be successful. I look forward to seeing what happens."
A quick look at some of the new Sea-Hawks, with coach Doug Partridge's remarks:
Jen Parsons: "Great athlete, active in the post, solid fundamentals, needs to be a more devoted defender and rebounder. She should see a good amount of action."
Anna Snow: "A great athlete, runs hard, can guard on the wing, moves feet well, active. Needs to gain some strength and polish her skills, seen as a big player who should be able to move out to the wing in the future. She should see consistent minutes."
Emily Jameson: "Active wing player, great determination and drive. Solid on the ball in defence. Has scoring potential.
Needs to be a little more relaxed and solid on the floor. Still figuring a role for the year."
Lauren Hawkins: "Great three-point shooter, solid defender, good fitness level, has been shooting and playing well. Could play a consistent role this season."
Samantha Kavanagh. "Tough, competitive, good skill base. Working to understand what she can and can't do at this level as opposed to high school. Adjusting to the size of the competition. Still trying to figure out role for the season."
Stephanie Stewart: "Sat out last year with post-concussion syndrome. Very good defender and rebounder, solid, good shooter for a post, has a lot of potential, will see consistent minutes this season."
Head coach: Doug Partridge
Assistant coaches: Judy Byrne, Bill Wiseman, George Mammen, Nathan Agnew
Last season's record: 16-4, lost in semifinals
MUN's 2009-10 roster
Vicki Thistle, forward, St. John's
Samantha Kavanagh, guard, Calvert
Erin Mullaley, guard, Freshwater
Jennifer Parsons, post, Pouch Cove
Erika Gratton, post, Barrhaven, Ont.
Brittany Dalton, guard, Harbour Main
Robyn O'Reilly, wing, Witless Bay
Lauren Hawkins, guard, St. John's
Ally Forsey, post, St. John's
Kim Devison, guard, Waterloo, Ont.
Emily Jameson, guard, St. John's
Anna Snow, post, St. John's
Grace Fishbein, Waterloo, Ont.
Stephanie Stewart, post, Kingston, Ont.
Sat., Nov. 7, Acadia at Memorial
Sun., Nov. 8, Acadia vs Memorial
Nov. 21, Saint Mary's vs Memorial
Nov. 22, Saint Mary's vs Memorial
Jan. 9, St. Francis vs Memorial
Jan. 10, St. Francis vs Memorial
Jan. 23, Dalhousie vs Memorial
Jan. 24, Dalhousie vs Memorial
Feb. 13, UNB vs Memorial
Feb. 14, UNB vs Memorial