After a fourth-place finish in the 2011–12 national championships — which the Dinos entered as the host team — the University of Calgary women’s basketball team was cautiously optimistic heading into the 2012–13 season despite losing their iconic head coach Shawnee Harle. Even with all the uncertainty of a new head coach, the Dinos have surpassed all expectations for the first half of their season, sitting first in the Canada West standings. The Dinos are also ranked seventh in Canadian Interuniversity Sport heading into the second half of the season, higher than they were ranked at any point in the 2011–12 season.
Damian Jennings was handed the reins as the Dinos’s new head coach and has instilled an offensively minded yet defensively responsible work ethic on his new team. Above all, it is the Dinos’s tenacity that has been strikingly evident throughout the first months of the season — perfectly demonstrated in a 63–58 overtime victory over the University of Victoria Vikes in their last CW game on Dec. 1. During that game, the Dinos trailed by 21 points, but battled back to get the win heading into the holidays.
When evaluating the first-half of the season, one can’t help but be impressed with the team’s leadership and ability to win close games, especially on the road. On Nov. 16–17, the Dinos defeated the University of Saskatchewan Huskies twice on consecutive nights, each by two points, 73–71 and 68–66. This effort is reflected in the Dinos’s team statistics as well by leading the CW with a turnover margin of +8.6.
The Dinos are led in scoring by fifth-year forward Jessica Franz, who has averaged 16.9 points-per-game — good enough to get her in the CIS top-20 in this category. Franz also leads the Dinos with 75 rebounds. As far as shooting from beyond the arc, sophomore guard Ashley Hirons has made 17 three-pointers, and has a percentage that places her in the top-15 in the CIS. Fourth-year guard Tamara Jarrett has averaged 2.7 steals-per-game, which is good enough for the top-15 in the CIS and she is tied for the team lead with 22 assists.
Even though the vast majority of statistical categories show consistent improvement, the Dinos have also struggled in some defensive areas. The Dinos are dead last in CW in defensive three-point percentage and second-last in field goal percentage. Basically, this means that the Dinos have been allowing their opponents to consistently score more frequently than other teams in CW. The Dinos also sit 12th out of 16 in defensive rebounding despite ranking second in offensive rebounding.
The challenge for the second half of the season will be to maintain their dominance of their CW opponents and manage a difficult schedule. Of the remaining 12 games, seven will be played on the road, including their first two games back against the University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat on Jan. 11 and Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack of Jan. 12. With a blazing start and all things considered, this team has certainly been one of the most pleasant surprises of the athletic year so far.