NANAIMO, BC: If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.
The 2019-20 basketball season is right around the corner, and we’re here to help you get set for what will surely be an incredible journey.
While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2018-19 season, one that saw two teams win their first-ever National Championships in school history, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead. The 2019-20 season promises to deliver a heightened level of excitement, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the new campaign.
To get fans across the country ready for the new season, we’ve taken on a challenge that hasn’t been done before. In the coming weeks, we will preview every team from coast to coast ahead of the 2019-20 season.
That’s 111 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally.
From August 8th through to October 6th, every team will be previewed in some capacity. For institutions that have both men’s and women’s basketball, a separate preview piece will be done for each team.
Rosters will be dissected and a look back at the year that was will help us determine what the team looks like this time around as every team begins with a blank slate in the standings.
Without further adieu, here is today’s preview on the women’s basketball program for the VIU Mariners.
2018-19 in Review
As the old adage goes, it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
For the Mariners, things started out well in 2018-19. They won the PACWEST title and advanced to the 2019 CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championships. After a quarter-finals loss, they ultimately fell short of their goal of a National Championship when all was said and done.
In the regular season, the Mariners posted a record of 17-1 to finish in first-place, despite their statistics saying that players only participated in 16 games. Their two contests against the CBC Bearcats were forfeit wins for the Mariners, listed as 2-0 victories.
Their lone loss came on January 12th, an 80-66 loss to the Capilano Blues.
From there, the Mariners rode their wave of momentum to a PACWEST Tournament title, earning them a spot at Nationals for their efforts. In a tough eight-team field, the Mariners were going to be in tough against the top competition from around the country.
In their CCAA quarter-final, the Mariners squared off with the Olds College Broncos. The ACAC Champions put VIU behind the proverbial eight-ball early on and didn’t let them get comfortable from the opening tip. The Broncos controlled the game from start to finish, handing the Mariners a 61-37 loss and sending them to the Consolation Side of the bracket.
“Full credit to Olds College, as they did a brilliant job of not letting us find any rhythm,” said Head Coach Tony Bryce. “It seemed as though we were second guessing whether we belonged and froze up.”
“After the first game jitters went away, the girls (and myself) realized we are right there with the best the country has to offer.”
Following the loss, the Mariners bounced back in a big way, picking up a pair of wins to put themselves in a position to compete for a bronze medal. A 93-89 win over the St. Clair Saints in the bronze quarter-final contest was followed up by a 71-61 victory over the Keyano College Huskies in the semifinals.
With the wins, the Mariners found themselves competing for a bronze medal against the Dawson Blues from the RSEQ. The contest was close, but the Mariners ran out of gas in their fourth game in three days and the Blues came away with the 74-64 win.
This season, the Mariners have their sights set on finishing higher than fourth place at Nationals. As the host institution in 2020, they will be looking to put together a memorable performance for their home crowd.
For the Mariners, they will have to replace three key players from last year’s roster. While the departing players may not have been the team’s top scorers, all of them were valuable assets to the team.
Emma Platner (Bend, OR) was one of just two players to start in all 16 games for VIU last season, leaving a hole in the starting five that will be up for grabs this season. Platner averaged 5.9 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 33.3% from the field. She was limited to just 28.6% shooting from three-point range.
The Mariners will be without their top rebounder from last year, as Emily Clarke (Penticton, BC) has moved onto the next chapter of her basketball career. Clarke averaged a team-best 7.1 rebounds per game while adding 8.2 points per contest on the offensive end of the floor. Clarke was an impact player on the glass on both ends of the floor, and the Mariners will look to new bodies to replace her production in the paint.
The third and final member of the Mariners’ graduating group is Victoria Brown (Nanaimo, BC). The fifth-year hometown product saw action in just 10 games last season, but Brown averaged 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest. In her limited action, Brown was highly effective from the field, shooting 51.1% from the field.
Again, the Mariners don’t lose their top scorers from last year’s team, but they do lose key role players who were significant contributors along VIU’s run to the PACWEST title and fourth-place finish at Nationals. The Mariners will look to their returning role players to take on expanded roles in 2019-20 as they get set to host the 2020 CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championships.
The Mariners return a slew of talent from last year’s team, which bodes well for their chances in a PACWEST Conference that will have a more level playing field this season. VIU will have their top four scorers back this season, and their roster is loaded with veterans from top to bottom.
Leading the way is Shayce Johnston (Saltspring Island, BC). Last season, Johnston was one of the more consistent scorers for the Mariners last season, as she averaged 11.6 points per contest. She had six straight games in double-figures in the second half of the season, from January 18th through to February 9th.
On the glass, Johnston averaged 5.1 rebounds per contest, having an impact on both ends of the floor. She recorded 10 or more rebounds on five separate occasions over the course of the year. Johnston will be one of several veteran leaders for Coach Bryce this season as the Mariners look to build momentum ahead of Nationals.
Last season, Amber Lease (Klamath Falls, OR) was the second of two Mariners to start all 16 regular season games. Albeit a bit streaky at times in terms of offensive production, Lease was one of VIU’s better two-way players. She posted a stat line of 9.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.3 steals per contest while shooting 36.6% from the field and 34.0% from three-point range.
Lease was one of the nation’s best at getting her teammates involved on a nightly basis. She had at least three assists in all 16 regular season games, while her assist-to-turnover ratio was an even 2:1. This season, with the core of the roster back in tow, Lease should put up similar numbers once more.
In a small sample size last season, Avery Snider (Comox, BC) was the Mariners’ top scorer. While she played just 10 games, Snider averaged 15.2 points to go along with 5.7 rebounds per game. She shot 35.0% from the field and 86.0% from the free throw line. A full season of Snider will take the offense for the Mariners to a new level.
Danielle Vanbergen (Courtenay, BC) gives the Mariners a strong threat on offense from three-point range. Last season, Vanbergen had 11 games in which she made two or more three-point jumpers. She posted 10.3 points per game while shooting 38.4% from the field and 33.3% from three-point range.
Add in Madeline Hart (Nanaimo, BC) to a strong returning crew, and it’s easy to see why the Mariners will likely be ranked among the nation’s top teams in 2019-20 from the outset of the season.
Head coach Tony Bryce has another talented recruiting class coming for the Mariners this season, headlined by a former NWAC South Division star who averaged more than 20 points per game last season. In total, the Mariners have three new faces coming to the program thus far, plus a player who is familiar with the PACWEST will return to the court with the Mariners this season after rehabbing a knee injury last year.
Arguably the marquee piece of this year’s recruiting class for Bryce and the Mariners is guard CJ Buckley (Hillsboro, OR.). Last season with the Clackamas C.C. Cougars in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), the 5’7” guard averaged 21.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per contest while shooting 44.1% from the field and 30.3% from three-point range.
Buckley was held to single digits just once last season, a five-point effort against the Yakima Valley Yaks, in 26 appearances for the Cougars. She had 12 games with at least 20 points over the course of the season.
“CJ adds a fearless, explosive athlete that has the ability to score,” said Bryce. “I expect CJ to take time to adjust, but once she does, she brings us a different look.”
Guard Kayla Gromme (Salt Springs Island, BC) brings a veteran presence and leadership to the lineup for VIU this season, both of which have Bryce excited for her addition to the lineup.
“Kayla brings leadership, versatility, and will impact the game on so many levels,” added Bryce.
In addition to Buckley and Gromme, the Mariners welcome Madison Terbasket-Winser (Keremeos, BC) to the mix. Most recently, the 6’0” forward committed to play for the Camosun Chargers during the 2017-18 season, but did not suit up for the team in game action. As she’s worked her way back from a knee injury, Coach Bryce is excited about her potential with the team.
“I think her game translates well into what we like to do offensively,” continued Bryce. “She could be a force for us next year, and for years to come.”
Rounding out the recruiting class is freshman wing Aliza Dueck (Chilliwack, BC). Dueck brings length and athleticism to the rotation for the Mariners as they look to make a statement ahead of hosting the 2020 CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship.
“We will approach this season like any other,” added Bryce. “Get together at the start, set individual and team goals, and work to achieve them.”
“Honestly, in regards to expectations, I don’t expect anything to change.”
The Mariners fell short last season on their quest for a National Championship, but the goal remains the same this season for the program. They got a taste of the event last season, with the bright lights and the big stage, and they appear ready to make up for lost time this season.
Having already locked up their spot at Nationals by way of hosting the event, the Mariners will look to put together another strong PACWEST regular season to show that they belong there, and weren’t given their spot.
Bryce summed it up best for his teammates when asked about playing at home.
“Playing at home is going to be amazing and a lot of fun! If you can’t get motivated and prepared to play for a National title in your own gym, then you need to check your pulse!”
With a pair of experienced additions added to the mix, plus more talent by way of Terbasket-Winser and Dueck, the Mariners have a talented group from top to bottom, and they have their sights set on being the ones celebrating a CCAA National Championship on their home floor come March.
Be sure to bookmark our 2019-20 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.
– T. Bennett