On Thursday, Oct. 15, and Friday, Oct. 16, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference released the coaches polls predicting who they thought would win the conference.
Viking men’s and women’s basketball teams hope to use losses in the GNAC championship game last year as motivation to capture that championship in the 2015-2016 season.
Western men finished at the top of that poll, beating out last years’ regular season champion, Western Oregon University.
“I feel like we should live up to our expectations of being ranked number one in the league,” senior guard Ricardo Maxwell said.
Maxwell returns as the Vikings’ starting point guard and is a first-team, all-conference selection, according to Western Athletics. The GNAC first-team also included junior forward Jeffrey Parker.
Western women found themselves in second, right behind University of Alaska Anchorage.
“We’ve been in the title game for the last four years and last year we didn’t win it,” junior forward Kiana Gandy said. “So that’s our number one goal for sure, GNAC champions.”
Defense is going to be a key strategy for both teams.
Senior center Kayla Bernsen said the team wants to play good defense and feed off of it.
“We’re defense first and really defensive minded,” Bernsen said. “Our offense flows off our defense.”
The men’s team hit its stride last season when it realized how good it was defensively, said head coach Tony Dominguez. Therefore, pressuring the ball has worked well, he said.
Team chemistry can often make or break a season.
“We’re getting good camaraderie with the team so [the season] should be exactly what we want it to be,” Maxwell said.
Women’s junior point guard Taylor Peacocke said a core of the team has been together for three years and have figured each other out.
Junior guard Aleisha Hathaway thinks trusting in each other has blossomed into strong friendships which ultimately has made it easier to play with each other.
“Good chemistry makes for good playing,” Hathaway said.
With the renovation of Carver Gym this season, each team will have the unfamiliar task of playing home games away from home. Home games during renovations are taking place at Whatcom Community College.
“It will be a big change,” women’s head coach Carmen Dolfo said.
However, Dolfo is trying to remain flexible with the situation.
“We are staying positive and want to continue to focus on the things we can control,” Dolfo said.
The things the teams can control are effort and playing with a chip on its shoulder.
“I feel like we kind of have something to prove,” Bernsen said.
Preseason starts Sunday, Oct. 25, at WCC. Women play at 2 p.m. and the men follow at 4:30 p.m.