Heat women adapt to life in CIS

A third of their maiden season under their belts, Roz Huber and the UBC Okanagan women’s basketball squad are ready to leave all the jitters and uncertainty of their new life in Canadian Interuniversity Sport behind once and for all.

The Heat will tip off the New Year of Canada West action this Friday night at the Kelowna campus gym as the University of Manitoba Bisons come calling. Game time is 6 p.m.

In a league where teams and players are bigger, stronger and faster than in the BCCAA, Huber said the learning curve, as expected, has been considerable.

Still, the veteran post player is encouraged by how her Heat teammates have responded to the challenge of pushing their game to a brand new level.

“I think our rookies have really calmed down a lot since those first games, they’re learning about the speed of the game, and our older players are settling down, too,” said Huber, in her fourth season with the Heat. “We’re all getting more comfortable with our teammates.

“I think the second half is going to be better,” she added, “we’ll be more composed because we know we’re a good team.”

The Heat sit at 1-5 in their inaugural Canada West season, the lone victory coming over the University of Brandon Bobcats.

Like any fledgling program to CIS competition, the UBC Okanagan women’s basketball team understands results aren’t going to come overnight.

Still, coach Semeniuk expects steps to be made with each quarter her team plays.

“They’re progressing and learning so much every time they’re out on the floor, and as long as they’re improving, you can’t ask for too much more,” she said. “The girls knew a little of what to expect before the season, but there’s the realization of actually being on the court and playing at this level, that’s the biggest revelation. Now they’ve seen what it’s all about.

“Everything is a step up,” she added, “the traveling, the experience of the other teams, the work off the floor they have to put in, those are all adjustments they need to make. The girls excited about having another 12 games to learn and do that.”

Over their first six games, the Heat is averaging more than 60 points, a respectable number for a first-year team. On the other hand, UBCO is yielding 76 points per game, a gap Semeniuk hopes to see close over the final two months of the Canada West season.

In addition to tightening up defensively, Semeniuk said the Heat must continue to rely on each other develop their team play.

“It’s about the five girls on the floor playing together as one,” said Semeniuk. “At this level, you’re not going to stop those star players on other teams by playing them as individuals. Unless we focus on team goals, we’re not going to progress, and I think the girls and beginning to understand that.”

And combined with the never-say-die, workmanlike approach the Heat bring to the floor, Huber expects the UBC Okanagan women make significant strides over the final two-third of the 2011-12 campaign.

“We feel like there are a few teams we can give a run for their money, they’re not all heads above us,” said Huber. “This team is not going away, we’re going to go in and compete every night. As long as we’re working hard and doing our best, nothing is lost. We understand this is our first year and we’re going to take our lumps, but we want teams to take us seriously. We have to grind it out.”

On Saturday, the UBC Okanagan women host the University of Winnipeg, with tip off at 6 p.m.


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