It’s only the opening weekend of the 2010-11 Atlantic Universities Sport (AUS) women’s basketball campaign, but Doug Partridge believes he has a pretty good idea of how the regular season will end.
Things will be ultra-competitive down the stretch, predicts the long-time Memorial Sea-Hawks head coach.
“We are headed to an era more like the (AUS) men’s league, where (the battle for first-round playoff) byes will go down to the final weekend,” said Partridge.
“And more often than not, the league winner will probably come from the teams that don’t get a bye.
“There is a lot of individual and team talent in the league.
The talent level of the Sea-Hawks gets a big test right away as MUN faces the defending champion Cape Breton University Capers (19-1) at the Field House this weekend.
Games are 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday.
The Sea-Hawks will start the season without top scorer Vicki Thistle, who was injured playing soccer this summer, but Partridge doesn’t seem too immediately concerned about replacing her 15 points-per-game.
“It’s not the points,” he said. “Offensively, we can find ways to score.”
It’s all about table protocol, according to the MUN head coach who has to sit out Saturday’s opener due to a one-game suspension he picked up during the pre-season.
“The bigger adjustment has been… you know, for the last number of years it’s been Erin (Mullaley) and Kelly (Himmelman) setting things up, and then maybe Vicki cleaning the table when it’s all done.
“This year, we’ve got different people setting it up and different people who have to clean the table, so it’s been a little bit of a change in that way.
“It’s just repetitions. Everything in life is repetitions,” Partridge said, waxing philosophical.
“You get better the more chances you do something, so we were better finishing games in our second (pre-season) game than the first and we’ll be better two months from now than they are right now.”
“We are headed to an era more like the (AUS) men’s league, where (the battle for first-round playoff) byes will go down to the final weekend. And more often than not, the league winner will probably come from the teams that don’t get a bye. - Doug Partridge
On the other side of the floor, it appears things are going to have to change if Cape Breton is going to repeat this season — at least based on pre-season play, according to Fabian McKenzie.
The Capers’ gregarious coach was blunt in his assessment of his team’s play in the pre-season
“Lack of experience, lack of scoring punch and the desire to play tough defense is our problem right now,” said McKenzie, not pulling any punches
“We are going to take a long time to get things in order,” he said.
“My goal for this team is to secure a playoff spot and hopefully, be good enough by the end of the year to deserve to be there.”
There are areas McKenzie would like to see immediate improvement.
“I would love to see improvement in all of the intangibles — running hard, rebounding, hitting the floor for loose balls… basically all of the little things that don't show up on the stat sheet,” he said.
While the defending champs have lost some key players and their coach is looking for a much better effort to open the season, Partridge says CBU remains a team to beat.
“They are absolutely contenders. They have two fourth-year guards, two quality bigs and some good size and athleticism on the wings. “Plus, they know how to win and how to play defence.”
As AUS championship tournament host, MUN would obviously like to make it to the final, something the Lady Hawks haven’t done the past two years.
So what’s it going to take to get back to the championship game?, Partridge was asked.
“Energy,” he responded, “and a commitment to defense.”
Sounds simple enough.