The WWU men’s basketball team standing arm-in-arm at Viking Madness on Friday, Oct. 18. // Photo by Claire Ott
By Nolan Baker
For a Friday night, campus was unusually loud. The booms and clashes of the Viking marching band echoed out of the entrance to Sam Carver Gymnasium, welcoming hundreds of eager fans into the first event of the year for Viking basketball.
Dubbed “Viking Madness,” both the men’s and women’s teams started off the new season with a night of autographs, dunks and three-point contests. Although the regular season doesn’t start for a few more weeks, the excitement for the upcoming season was palpable.
Before festivities officially began, both teams formed an autograph-signing assembly line around one half of the court, where fans young and old chatted, took selfies and had posters signed by their favorite Vikings.
“Now it’s time to meet your 2019-2020 Vikings,” Jeff Evans, Western athletic communications director, boomed into the PA system.
With that announcement, Viking Madness, and the new season, began.
Every player was individually introduced to the raucous crowd, throwing out T-shirts into the stands and high-fiving teammates as they took the court. There was clearly an air of excitement for these players and the year ahead.
“I think it’s good for our community to see our team and who’s here and who’s playing and to get excited for the year,” said Carmen Dolfo, who is entering her 28th season as head coach for the Viking women’s team.
According to Western’s athletics website, close to 800 fans attended the 33rd annual Viking Madness, which was marketed extensively around campus and the Bellingham community.
“Every year it gets better and bigger,” said senior forward Tervor Jasinsky. Jasinsky leads the men’s team in points, averaging 19.1 per game over his career.
“It’s just a different atmosphere when the stands are packed and people are yelling,” Jasinsky said after the event. “We’re really happy with how it turned out tonight and hope that carries over into the season.”
After introductions, both teams showed off their teamwork with intrasquad scrimmages. The women’s team showcased fierce defense (even for a practice game) for an excited crowd, while the men’s scrimmage featured everything but defense.
The loudest moment of the night at the WECU Court was after sophomore guard RJ Secrest put his teammate Bryce Knox on the floor with an ankle-breaking stepback crossover.
After the scrimmages and a brief intermission from the Viking marching band, both teams entered a three point contest and the men’s team finished the night with a dunk contest that brought the crowd to their feet.
Behind the festivities, there are real expectations for these two teams who both saw their seasons cut short with losses in the semifinal round of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament.
Last season, the men’s team missed out on a spot in the GNAC championship when they lost to Concordia University, with a final score of 79-70.
The Vikings finished the season with a 15-15 record. It was the worst win-loss record of coach Tony Dominguez’s eight seasons as head coach. The Vikings were plagued by injuries throughout all of last season, with multiple starters missing key games.