Keep in mind the competition.
On Friday night a new-look Lakehead Thunderwolves squad, minus OUA all-star Lindsay Druery and a host of verterans from last year’s 10-12 squad, declawed the visiting Brandon Bobcats, racing to a decisive 85-58 victory to open pre-season play.
On paper, it looks great, but these are the same Bobcats that were winless in 2012-13, posting a dismal 0-20 record that landed them solidly in the Canada West cellar.
That said, there was plenty for LU coach Jon Kreiner to like.
Third-year guard Katie Ulakovic looked like the floor general she was brought in to be, adding an offensive touch that until now has been buried behind the likes of Druery, McNulty and before them, her mentor, Tasia McKenna.
Carolyn Fragale, in her second, but final, season with the Wolves, looked sharp as ever and finished with 14 points.
British import Kelsey Bardsley, buoyed by the addition of countrywoman Rachel Bland, a sharpshooter herself it appears, was a monster from downtown.
Bardsley wound up with a game-high 17, Bland hit double figures with 10 in her LU debut.
“No, you can’t complain about it,” said Bardsley, embarking on her second season with the Thunderwolves.
“It’s great to get our first win at home. I love playing here and it starts us off on the right foot.”
On the rookie front, Hammarskjold High School grad Jessica deHaan, a year removed from her last encounter on the hard-court, showed she’s still got it, pushing in a quick first-quarter pair to spark an LU attack that refused to let up until the game was out of reach.
It’s all about the team effort, Bardsley said.
“The team this year, we have to be a team. We’re all so dedicated off the court. Everyone’s (lifting) weights, shooting every day and practicing, so everyone’s doing well.”
Five players in double digits is a great start, Bardsley said.
“Everybody can step up any given day,” she said.
Ulakovic called it a great team win, after the Wolves stormed out to a 28-13 lead after 10 minutes and took a 53-31 lead into the break.
“Everyone contributed to our win and it shows in our stats. We had five players in double digits. Defensively we have some things to work on, but I think we played pretty well,” Ulakovic said.
It’s the defence Kreiner wanted to talk about afterward.
Yeah, they got the win, but they didn’t transition well when Brandon took possession and they took far too many fouls, sending the Bobcats to the line 38 times.
“We want to keep teams to less than 20 free throws,” Kreiner said, knowing he has to break his players of bad habits now, during non-conference play, in order to be ready for the start of the regular season in a few weeks.
The Wolves can afford lapses now or later, he said, and must give it their all regardless of who they’re playing.
“Every game is a CIS game. Brandon did a great job. They got down early and were able to come back to 14 points and I thought our girls were able to hold, sustain and bounce back. No matter who you’re playing, the first game is the first game. It means nothing,” Kreiner said.
“It’s just a gauge of where you’re at.”
For a rebuilding year, even if it was just a confidence booster, it was a pretty good start.
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