Canada’s head coach Lisa Thomaidis looks on as they play China in the preliminary round of women’s basketball action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada’s goal is to play in a medal game at World Cup in Spain

The 2014 women’s world basketball championships were a coming out party for Canada.

The 2014 women’s world basketball championship was a coming out party for Canada. The Canadians roared past France and China in the elimination round in Turkey, finishing fifth in Lisa Thomaidis’s world debut as the team’s head coach.

“That 2014 worlds was really a huge moment for us,” Thomaidis said. “It was a bit of a ‘here we are’ kind of moment, like we’re coming on the scene and making people stand up and take notice.”

The four years since their best world championship finish in 28 years have seen Canada solidify its spot among the world’s top teams, and on Saturday, Canada tips off the World Cup in Tenerife, Spain ranked a program-high fifth.

“I think we probably took some teams by surprise at that point in time,” Thomaidis said. ”But 2014, not too many expectations, and 2018 I would say there’s quite a few expectations.”

Indeed, Canada has been mentioned as a legitimate medal contender. The team’s target is to win a quarterfinal game, a step the Canadians have not been able to take since the team’s bronze at the 1986 world championships.

It’s a far different team than took the floor four years ago. Several veterans retired after Canada’s heartbreaking seventh-place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Several young players such as Kia Nurse, Nirra Fields and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe have injected a big dose of athleticism. Once known as a strong defensive team, they’ve allowed Canada to push the pace on both ends.

“We were holding our own (in 2014) with the past style of play, we were very disciplined at both ends of the floor, we weren’t playing with a very fast pace, but we were disciplined and we were locked in defensively,” Thomaidis said. “In terms of personality, in terms of style of play, we’re quite different from that 2014 team. Trying to play much more up-tempo, trying to extend our defence, and having some dynamic players on the roster certainly changed the way we’ve been able to play, so that’s been fun.”

The Canadians open the 16-country tournament versus No. 20 Greece on Saturday, then play South Korea (No. 16) on Sunday, and France (No. 3) on Tuesday.

Canada is taking no team lightly. The World Cup is “such a tough competition,” Thomaidis said.

“There’s no easy games, so it is tough to do well in this tournament, as it should be, it’s the world championships. Teams that do well have to string together a number of very very solid games, and there’s no chance to get through if you’re not playing really well. And that really applies to us. When we’re good, we can be pretty good. When we’re not playing well, we can be beat by anyone. So that’s sort of the challenge that we’re faced with right now.”

Canada faces a Greek team that’s led by 39-year-old Evina Maltsi, a former WNBA player and Eurobasket MVP. Greece, said Thomaidis, can “really ride the emotion, and put together a very strong game.”

The Canadians expect their stiffest test to come against archrival France, which dispatched Canada in the quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics. The two met in a friendly last week, the French fighting off a fourth-quarter rally to beat Canada 72-68. Neither country though showed its full hand.

“They looked like they had a pretty small playbook … they really are just kinda playing with you, and seeing what you’re doing,” Thomaidis said. ”I imagine that next time we play them it will be quite different in terms of the actions that they run, and the number of minutes each player gets and things like that. We’ll see.”

The 46-year-old Thomaidis was a longtime assistant to Allison McNeill before McNeill retired in 2013. She’s also a five-time Canada West coach of the year and two-time U Sports national coach of the year with the University of Saskatchewan.

Thomaidis’s professional playing career was cut short by a chondral fracture of the patella and femur while playing in Greece.

“Unfortunate and unlucky, but at the same time super lucky,” she said. ”Had that not happened, I wouldn’t be in coaching.”

Canada men’s basketball to play China in B.C. next month

RELATED: Toronto guard to challenge for starting role

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Photos from Kelowna’s 39th annual Terry Fox Run

Residents of Kelowna took on cancer in the rain and had a blast.

Kelowna classroom where child allegedly overdosed re-opens after cleaning

An 8-year-old was unresponsive and unable to walk after ingesting an unknown substance at school.

Rockets lose to Blazers in nail-biting shootout

The Rockets came back to tie the game 2-2, but would ultimately lose in a nine-round shootout.

Okanagan brothers recognized with medals of bravery for saving four from drowning in 2013

The two brothers saved four from drowning after they were swept into the rough waters of Wood Lake.

Kelowna author releases 2nd book with stories of overcoming personal trauma

The launch for Diana Reyers’ Trauma to Recovery comes to Kelowna Sept. 21

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Federal party leaders address gun violence after weekend shooting near Toronto

One teen was killed and five people injured in the shooting

Video: Rain doesn’t deter Terry Fox runners in Salmon Arm

Dozens showed up to continue the Canadian icon’s marathon of hope.

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Federal food safety watchdog says batch of baby formula recalled

The agency says it’s conducting a food safety investigation

Road block was costly legal battle for Summerland

Resolving Garnet Valley dispute took six years

Most Read