Youthful SFU women’s basketball team have strong year despite failing to reach national tournament

The future is bright for the Clan

The Clan were extremely young this year, featuring five freshmen and four sophomores. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

The Clan came into this season with an incredibly young team. The team sported five freshmen, and only three of their 12 players were juniors or seniors. Despite this relatively inexperienced group, however, the team was able to play competitive basketball throughout the season, just barely missing out on playing in the national tournament.

“I thought that we got better every week right up until the end, we kind of got sick and injured in the last two weeks,” said head coach Bruce Langford when the The Peak asked for his thoughts on the 2018–2019 season. “I wasn’t surprised with the results but I was pleased with the results.”

The team did not get off to the start they may have hoped for, starting out 2–3 in the conference. Around mid-January, however, the team was able to find its footing, going on a streak in which they won 10 of 11 games, including six straight, which set the tone for the rest of the season.

As can be expected from such a young team, the team struggled with consistency for part of the season. Part of this may also be the style of basketball that the team plays. The team shot more threes than any other team in the GNAC, and by a large margin. The team went 260–790 (.329) from three on the season, while no other team in the conference even attempted 650 shots from behind the arc. Of course, when the team wasn’t having a good shooting night, it had a tendency to struggle.

When asked about this, coach Langford says that he’s always been a big fan of the three ball. The program heavily recruits players that can shoot from deep, and encourages them to do so in game. This year, without a dominant inside presence, the team relied heavily on their perimeter play.

As a result, sophomore guards Jessica Jones and Tayler Drynan came second and third in three-pointers made in the GNAC this season. Both were named as honourable mentions on the 2018–2019 All-GNAC conference team. Joining them were Sophie Swant and Ozioma Nwabuko. In her senior season, Swant led the team with 14.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and was the Clan’s lone representative on the All-GNAC first team. On the other hand, Nwabuko had an impactful season in her return from injury, and was named GNAC Defensive Player of the Year as well as a member on the All-GNAC second year.

Coach Langford was also impressed by the seasons of Sophomores Claudia Hart and Kendall Sands. When asked about who stood out to him this season, he said, “[Sands] had a really good rookie year, and she’s built on that this year. I think she’s a bright light going forward.”

That statement may be true for the whole team. While losing seniors Swant and Samantha Beauchamp will hurt, the team is set to have 10 returning players next season. Pieces like Drynan, Jones, Nwabuko, Hart and Sands will all be key players to watch next season, while general improvements by other players on the team and a strong recruitment class should bode well for the Clan going forward.

The upset loss to Western Washington University to get knocked out of the GNAC Championships and miss the national tournament undoubtedly hurt, but experiences like these are key for the young group going forward. Expect the team to be hungrier next year, continue to shoot a ton of threes, and improve all-around, especially with consistency. This group is just getting started.