Things will undoubtedly get tougher for the Lakehead Thunderwolves women’s basketball team.
But on Thursday night, the start of their own Zanata Invitational pre-season tournament, they made the most of an inexperienced, expansion opponent, rolling to an easy 69-50 Thunderdome win over the visiting Algoma University Thunderbirds.
It was Algoma’s first game as a full-fledged Canadian Interuniversity Sport member.
Ayse Kalkan was the catalyst for the re-tooled Wolves, scoring 10 of her 16 points in the first quarter, sparking a 23-1 run that stretched into the second and put the contest away in a hurry.
Rookie Cassandra Soulias made an impressive debut, erupting for 14 points, equaling the total of fifth-year veteran Kelsey Bardsley.
Kalkan, a Winnipeg native entering her final season with the Thunderwolves, is expected to carry a heavy load on a rookie-laden squad.
Her first quarter effort is just what the team is going to need to contend in the CIS season.
“It was a rough start, but once we got meshing a little better we started picking each other up and kind of got going, especially with our defence getting some stops,” Kalkan said.
The start, that saw the Thunderbirds go up 4-0, was more a case of first-game jitters than anything else, she added.
“We did talk before the game about not underestimating any team because it’s anyone’s game any night,” Kalkan said. “We did come out a little nervous.”
Soulias, who starred with a pair of St. Ignatius Falcons high school championship teams before landing with the Thunderwolves this fall, said she was among the most nervous as the game began, but the butterflies quickly vanished as she got into the flow of CIS play.
Still, it took a little adjustment.
“It’s much more intense at the university level and you always have to stay on your game from the start to the end. It’s a lot different than high school. But I feel once I play a few games I’ll adjust,” she said.
That’s not good news for the opposition.
Soulias was stellar at both ends of the court, adding three rebounds and a pair of steals to her impressive totals.
“It feels good. It really brought my confidence up. And on the runs we had, it really brought the team up,” she said.
Lakehead coach Jon Kreiner said his goal was to take a good look at the 14 players he dressed and see what they had to offer.
He liked what he saw, other than a defensive lapse in the second half, when the Thunderwolves surrendered 34 points to a feisty Algoma squad, led by 11 points from Daya Bhogal and eight from Thunder Bay’s Karissa Kajorinne.
Soulias and Kalkan stood out, he said.
“We struggled at times, but I thought Cassandra stabilized that defence. Ayse was our leading rebounder last year and she was pretty good tonight.”
Beyond the arc: Algoma’s Sydney Resch scored the first basket in school history at the CIS level … Rookie Kylee Kuchta have five points in her first game for LU, while Grand Marais, Minn. product Essa Jacobsen had four points and six boards …. Lakehead made just seven turnovers all game, while collecting nine steals … Lakehead takes on Laurentian Friday night at 6 p.m.
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