OLDS, Alberta — A ton of things can change from one season to the next.
For the Olds College Broncos, the difference between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons was almost night and day. One year, the Broncos were at the bottom of the ACAC South Division standings. The next, they were back in the playoffs and contenders for the conference title.
In 2016-17, the Broncos finished in sixth place in the South Division, recording just five wins over the course of the season. They went 5-16 in league play, finishing 12 points out of the forth and final playoff spot in the South Division. The Broncos were four points ahead of the last-place Ambrose University Lions.
Fast forward to the 2017-18 season, and Olds College looked like a different team.
The Broncos improved on their record from the season before by 20 points, finishing with a record of 15-6 overall, a record that was good enough for second place in the division. Olds College finished just four points out of first place in the division, trailing only the SAIT Trojans.
Their second place finish secured the Broncos a spot in the post-season, and while the results weren’t as expected, the turnaround that the Broncos put forth over the course of the season was special.
In 2018-19, the Broncos will look to prove that their turnaround season wasn’t just a flash in the pan, but that they’re here to stay as top contenders in the ACAC. A healthy mix of veterans and newcomers will give the Broncos a great chance at competing for the league title come March.
After a dismal 2016-17 season, the Broncos aimed to turn things around last year. However, after their first three games, things didn’t look promising. Olds College dropped their first three games of the season and it looked like they were going to continue the trend from the previous season.
The Broncos found their stride and kicked things into another gear.
Following their three-game losing streak to open the season, the Broncos rattled off six straight wins to get themselves back on the right side of .500 for the season. They won four games before the Christmas break, and then a pair of games at NAIT, one each against the NAIT Ooks and Lakeland College Rustlers, to open the 2018 calendar year.
Olds College would enter the month of February with a record of 9-5, and they weren’t done just yet.
Seven straight wins to open the month of February for the Broncos put them in contention for the ACAC South Division title with the SAIT Trojans. Olds College had a home-and-home with SAIT to close out the regular season, and that series would ultimately determine if the Broncos earned at least a share of the division title or fell just short.
The Broncos closed out their home schedule with a 77-69 win over the Trojans to put themselves just two points behind SAIT for the division lead. The next night, SAIT secured the division crown with a close 52-50 win over the Broncos. Still, Olds College advanced to the ACAC Championships as the second seed from the South Division.
After an opening round loss to Lakeland, the Broncos would pick up wins over the Keyano College Huskies and NAIT to secure the consolation championship. While it wasn’t the league title that would earn them a spot at the CCAA National Championships, it was a vast improvement from the season prior that saw them finish at the bottom of the division.
Now, the Broncos have their sights set on bigger and better things in 2018-19.
Leading the way will be fourth-year forward Brittney Thibeaux, who is coming off an impressive 2017-18 season and is one of the best forwards in the ACAC, regardless of division. Last season, the 6’0” forward from Lake Villa, IL led the Broncos in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 25.3 points and 12.4 rebounds per contest while shooting 62.0% from the floor.
Thibeaux reached double-digit points in all but one regular season game last season, and her lone single-point game came in the season finale against SAIT, as the Trojans held her to just seven points. Across 21 regular season contests, Thibeaux recorded 16 double-doubles, and she recorded at least 15 rebounds in five of those contests.
The offense for the Broncos undoubtedly ran through Thibeaux, and that will continue this season. She was highly effective from the floor and was a force on the glass on both ends of the floor. However, the Broncos do have a supporting cast that will take some pressure off Thibeaux as the season progresses.
Fellow fourth-year forward Michaela Allen-Guillon is back to help the Broncos build off last season’s performance. The native of Calgary finished second on the team last season in scoring, averaging 13.7 points to go along with 4.4 assists per contest. She shot 35.4% from three-point range, which was good for the second-best mark on the team.
Guard Kristina Bajovic is back for her third year of eligibility, and she gives the Broncos a viable scoring option in the back court. Her 13.6 points per game last season landed her third on the team, and her return this season gives the Broncos a talented core group of veterans. The third-year guard from Belgrade, Serbia will look to build off last year’s breakout season and continue to add offense from the back court.
Olds College will also welcome three ACAC transfers to the mix this season, adding forward Macyn Morning Bull (SAIT) along with guards Cassidy Simmonds (NAIT) and Madison Simmonds (NAIT) to the roster.
The Broncos put together an impressive season last year, and came one win away from earning a share of the ACAC South Division title. Given the struggles that Olds College went through during the 2016-17 season, last season was a pleasant surprise. Now, they will be looking to maintain that level of success and build off it in 2018-19.
With one of the top forwards in the ACAC leading the way, the Broncos have their sights set on the ACAC Championships and more in 2018-19.
– T. Bennett