“We really love our team”: Saskatchewan Huskies champion to defend

“Definitely the mainstay of Libby Epoch and Summer Masikewich, a great combo to have back.”

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Do you remember March 2020?

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Before the COVID-19 buzzer sounded, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies were able to win their second U Sports women’s national basketball title.

Then, with the Bronze Baby Trophy proudly on display, the Huskies held a rally to celebrate in the Physical Activity Complex before the world of sport shuts down days later due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

From there, the 2020-21 season was canceled.

Now, a year later, the 2021-2022 Canada West season is officially on and the Saskatchewan Huskies are back to defend – finally.

They will hit the road for the opening weekend with games against the Brandon University Bobcats on Friday and Saturday.

Again, they look good on paper, but there are more questions than answers after missing an entire season.

“Who knows?” asked Lisa Thomaidis, longtime Huskies head coach.

“We really like our team. We have worked very hard. We have a solid core of returning players. This includes some that we will be counting on to step up and play a bigger role, with massive departures. “

Indeed, this U Sports 2019-2020 champion team is missing a number of pieces, namely Sabine Dukate, Megan Ahlstrom, Kyla Shand, Vera Crooks and the sisters Fehr, Christy and Brianna.

Dukate and Ahlstrom were two-time national champions and “did absolutely everything for us,” said Thomaidis. “They were such leaders on and off the ground.”

While key players like Dukate and Ahlstrom will be difficult to replace, the Huskies still have returnees like Libby Epoch and Summer Masikewich, as well as Carly Ahlstrom, Katriana Philipenko, Andrea Dodig, Janaya Brown, Claudia Lomba Viana and Erin Kehrig back from the 2019 -20 list.

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“Definitely the mainstay of Libby and Summer, a great combo to bring back,” said Thomaidis. “And then Carly Ahlstrom kind of broke at the end of the season (2019-20). We are counting on her to continue where she left off. Andy Dodig, who was first-year national champion, returns with a broken wrist, and Claudia Lomba Viana, who will be in the rotation.

University of Saskatchewan Huskies forward Summer Masikewich, right, kisses guard Libby Epoch after defeating the University of Alberta Pandas in the Canada Women’s Basketball Conference Final West at PAC on the U of S Saskatoon campus on Friday February 28, 2020. Photo by Liam Richards /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

HUSKIES HAVE A GLOBAL FLAVOR

There are a lot of new faces that have yet to play an official Canada West game at the PAC.

The group includes two players from Europe: the Slovak Lucia Zilinska and the German Amina Kameric. They join Portuguese Lomba Viana on the Huskies, who now sport the most international flavor to date, even after graduation from Dukate of Latvia.

“They’re going to take a little while for them to adjust to our style of play and everything,” said Thomaidis. “Lucia is a 6-foot-3 coming up. We’ve lost Kyla Shand, so Lucia steps up and tries to get in tune, but she’s a good presence with a nice touch around the basket. She can shoot it and she’s a great passer.

“Amina was born in the United States, but lived in Berlin. He’s a cunning guard who can shoot and create somehow. We expect them to develop and expect them, a little later, to play a more important role.

Also among the newcomers is Tea Demong, a former top basketball player in Alberta. She joined the team last year and Thomaidis and her team can’t wait to see her in action.

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“She’s going to play a big role from the start,” Thomaidis predicted.

Other Huskie puppies include Ella Murphy Wiebe who “has shown great signs of arrival and intervention with great athleticism and a great work ethic”, Gage Grassick of Prince Albert, Courtney Primeau of Centennial Collegiate of Saskatoon and Oluwatito Akinnusi from Caledon Basketball Academy in Ontario.

SEASON OUTLOOK

“I think the biggest difference from a few years ago is that we’re going to have to rely on the best players to play some pretty big roles, where we were so deep before,” said Thomaidis.

“I have full confidence that we’ll get there and it’s fun to see the progress. I think they handled a lot of information, a lot of feedback very well and I think our culture of hard work and daily improvement has been passed on from those who have come before, those who are still there (since before ) are really leading this charge. Lots of positive signs for sure.

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University of Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis addresses her players as they face the University of Alberta Pandas in the basketball conference final Canada West Women at the PAC on the U of S campus in Saskatoon on Friday February 28, 2020.
University of Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis addresses her players as they face the University of Alberta Pandas in the basketball conference final Canada West Women at the PAC on the U of S campus in Saskatoon on Friday February 28, 2020. Photo by Liam Richards /Saskatoon StarPhoenix
  1. CP-Web.  The University of Saskatchewan Huskies celebrate their victory over the Brock Badgers in the U Sports Final 8 Championships Women's Championship final basketball game in Ottawa on Sunday, March 8, 2020.

    A look back at Bronze Baby’s victory in 2020

  2. The University of Saskatchewan Huskies bench applaud in the 2020 Canada West Women's Basketball Conference final against the University of Alberta Pandas at PAC on the U of S campus in Saskatoon on Friday February 28, 2020.

    Recruitment never stopped during the pandemic break

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