Women’s basketball heads to Alaska

Simo Rul, Senior Sports Reporter

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Jack Lambert
The CWU women’s basketball team is heading to Alaska to begin conference play. They will face the No. 1 team in the GNAC, Alaska Anchorage, on Thursday Nov. 30 and Alaska Fairbanks on Saturday Dec. 2. The last time the Wildcats won a game at Alaska was during the 2012-13 season when they defeated both teams.

Last year Alaska Anchorage was 30-2 overall and 20-0 in the GNAC. They won the GNAC title after defeating Western Washington University 79-70 in the finals. They’re entering the season ranked No. 1 in the region and No. 4 in the nation.

The Wildcats lost both games to Alaska Anchorage last year. The first meeting took place in Alaska on Jan. 12 with Alaska winning 86-48. The second matchup was in Ellensburg on Feb. 11, where Alaska won 69-48.

Alaska Fairbanks finished last season 13-14 overall, and went 9-11 in the GNAC. Fairbanks beat the Wildcats in Alaska on Jan. 14, 69-56. CWU came out with a close 69-66 win in Ellensburg against Alaska Fairbanks on Feb. 9.

Head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley said that Alaska is a tough trip because there is a lot of travel involved. This is the first in conference trip for the Wildcats and they know that they can’t simply expect a win.

“We go into Anchorage first, they are a storied program, they play harder than probably anybody in the GNAC. I think we have a good group and depth this year to be able to compete with them,” Richardson-Thornley said.

Fairbanks has made some changes during the offseason, but the game will still be a tough one for the Wildcats.

“They have a new coach, they lost a lot, there’s a lot of unknown with them. Fairbanks is always a tough place to play, they get good crowds and their kids always play hard,” Richardson-Thornley said.

For the Wildcats to have a better trip this time around they know what they need to do. They want to control the game and decide which way the tempo goes.

“They got to be ready to go in and compete,” Richardson-Thornley said “We got to execute our stuff, stick to what we do. Don’t allow Anchorage to speed us up because that’s what they want, they like to speed teams up and get them out of what they do. We have to be confident in what we do, kind of dictate the pace and stick to what we do.”

The Wildcats know what they need to do to come away with positive results on this trip. They have to come up with stops. The Alaska teams pose different challenges, so the Wildcats will have to be ready defensively.

The Alaska teams “are fast, they’re athletic, they’re smart with the ball,” senior forward Taylor Baird said. “It’s just about playing solid defense and not giving up easy things.”

The Wildcats have six seniors excited for the trip, including senior forward Rachel Lorentson.

“A lot of it is mental, it’s been really hard,” Lorentson said. “Since I’ve been here we have yet to win a game at Alaska.”

It could be a good thing for the Wildcats to face a nationally ranked opponent early in the season.

“I think it will be great to kind of see where we are at. I think we can definitely compete, we’re excited to go up there, see where we are at and give ‘em our best shot,” Richardson-Thornley said.

Baird believes that being able to play against a tough team allows the Wildcats to gauge their progress and determine what aspects of their game need more work. With the challenges they will face, they can only get better going forward.

“I’m excited,” Richardson-Thornley said. “I love the Alaska trip, Alaska is beautiful. It’s a good time, you get to spend time with your kids and bond as a group. I think Anchorage is a fun place to play, they get great crowds. I really like Fairbanks and it’s going to be a fun time to go up there.

The Wildcats are currently 3-3 and on a two-game winning streak. They are looking to continue that run on the Alaska trip. They are coming off of wins against Eastern Oregon University 84-70 and Pacific Lutheran University 74-55. Tip-off for both games is scheduled at 6:15 p.m.

 

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Women’s basketball heads to Alaska