Brian Swane, Special to Canada West
EDMONTON - In the world of Canadian university women's basketball, this is hallowed ground.
It has proudly housed the Bronze Baby nine times. Another six medals sit in its trophy cases. That's more than any other campus can claim.
Seems only fitting that the highly anticipated ArcelorMittal Dofasco U SPORTS Final 8 be contested here, at the University of Victoria.
"When you walk into our gym, there's images all over the gym of people holding the Bronze Baby, and banners all over the place," says Dani Sinclair, head coach of the UVic women's basketball team.
Eight of Canada's top programs will assemble on Vancouver Island this week to determine the national champion, as Canada West finalists Saskatchewan and Regina, OUA finalists Carleton and Queens, RSEQ champ McGill, and AUS gold medalists Cape Breton join the host Vikes.
Action at the sparkling CARSA Performance Gym gets underway with the quarter-finals on Thursday, and continues through Sunday's gold medal game.
"We believe we're going to be a tough team in a one-off game for anybody to knock off ... but it should be interesting," Sinclair says. "Across the board, I don't remember a year where it's been so wide-open."
In addition to four days of hoops that promises to be both competitive and compelling, Victoria will honour its storied history during halftime of Thursday night's quarter-final match-up between the Vikes and Carleton. Dozens of former Vikes players will be in attendance, many who own championship rings from their time at UVic.
"We have a ton of alumni coming, and for how much history there is here in our gym, it's going to be really cool to see all of those women come back," Sinclair says. "They're coming from all over the place, and some of them are back on campus for the first time in decades and a lot are seeing our new gym for the first time."
Capacity crowds amid an electric atmosphere will do their part to try and help Victoria capture its first Bronze Baby since 2003. As they celebrate the champions of their storied past, today's Vikes would love to author a storybook championship triumph of their own.
"We're not trying to get back to where we were because times have changed and it's a new era," Sinclair says. "We're trying to create our own history. But there's something to be said for what those women have done."
Canada West teams at the U SPORTS Final 8:
No. 2 SASKATCHEWAN HUSKIES
QF vs No. 7 Laval at 2pm PST (8pm CST) Thurs., March 9
Regular season: 15-5, 5th
Playoffs: defeated UFV 2-1 in quarter-final series, defeated Alberta 72-62 in semi-final game, defeated Regina 64-53 in gold medal game
Season leaders: Sabine Dukate (16.2 ppg), Megan Lindquist (6.6 rpg), Libby Epoch (3.7 apg)
Canada West awards: Dukate (First Team All Star), Epoch (All-Rookie Team)
National championships: 1 (2016)
No. 5 REGINA COUGARS
QF vs No. 4 McGill at 6pm PST (8pm CST) Thurs., March 9
Regular season: 17-3, 2nd (tie)
Playoffs: defeated Trinity Western 2-0 in quarter-final series, defeated Winnipeg 81-70 in semi-final game, lost to Saskatchewan 64-53 in gold-medal game
Season leaders: Katie Polischuk (15.7 ppg), Kyanna Giles (7.3 rpg), Michaela Kleisinger (2.5 apg), Avery Pearce (2.5 apg)
Canada West awards: Giles (Rookie of the Year, Third Team All Star, All-Rookie Team), Polischuk (First Team All Star)
National championships: 1 (2001)
No. 8 VICTORIA VIKES
QF vs No. 1 Carleton at 8pm PST Thurs., March 9
Regular season: 12-8, 6th (tie)
Playoffs: defeated MacEwan 2-0 in play-in series, lost to Winnipeg 2-1 in quarter-final series
Season leaders: Jenna Bugiardini (16.1 ppg, 10.0 rpg), Jenna Krug (3.8 apg)
Canada West awards: Bugiardini (Second Team All Star), Krug (Sylvia Sweeny Award), Paige Thomson (Tracy MacLeod Award)
National championships: 9 (1980-82, 1985, 1987, 1992, 1998, 2000, 2003)
Complete U SPORTS Final 8 schedule:
|Thu. 9||Queen's||Cape Breton||12:00 PM PST||Live stats|
|Saskatchewan||Laval||2:00 PM PST||Live stats|
|McGill||Regina||6:00 PM PST||Live stats|
|Carleton||Victoria||8:00 PM PST||Live stats|
|Fri. 10||TBA||TBD||6:00 PM PST||Live stats|
|Consolation Semi-final 1|
|TBA||TBD||8:00 PM PST||Live stats|
|Consolation Semi-final 2|
|Sat. 11||TBD||TBA||2:00 PM PST||Live stats|
|TBD||TBA||4:00 PM PST||Live stats|
|Semifinal 2 - Broadcast on Sportsnet 360|
|TBA||TBD||7:00 PM PST||Live stats|
|Sun. 12||TBA||TBD||10:00 AM PDT||Live stats|
|TBA||TBD||1:00 PM PDT||Live stats|
|Gold Medal - Broadcast on Sportsnet 360|