The gymnasium was a melody of bouncing balls, squeaking sneakers, and chirping whistles, as both the men’s and women’s teams held tryouts to prepare for the upcoming season.
Although there were not many new faces on the men’s side, as most players are returning from last year or had trained with the team over the summer, head coach Matt Kuzminski was happy with the turnout.
“I am really excited about this season,” Kuzminski says. “I think we have some veteran guys who can provide quality leadership and help our younger guys adjust. I have been pleased with the work that has been put in over summer and in the first week of practice.”
Kuzminski, entering his first season at the helm, was able to use the team’s two summer exhibition games against NCAA clubs to get to know his squad.
“For me, [the games were] an opportunity for myself and the rest of the coaching staff to get comfortable in our new roles with the team,” Kuzminski says. “We have been working informally with our guys in skill development and training, but it’s nice to get an opportunity prior to season to coach them in game action.”
He also said the tune-up games were useful for the players to see how they have progressed with off-season training, and gives them the chance to get to know one-another.
“Its nice for them to get to see the guys who are not from this area and it gave us a bit of a jump start on the team bonding process,” Kuzminski says. “Furthermore, it allows them to get a feel for any gains or improvements they have made over the course of the summer in regards to skill or physical development.”
Fresh faces were present on the women’s side, said head coach Bill McWhinnie, including a pair of potential standouts.
“I think that we have a good group this year, which has been enhanced by our five new players,” McWhinnie says. “In particular, I think Chardonnae Mortimer and Erin Vekic are going to be key to our success this year.
“Vekic is a very intelligent player who shoots the ball extremely well, while Mortimer will provide us with inside scoring and post defense. It will take some time for this group to create the chemistry necessary to win a championship, but we are off to a good start,” McWhinnie says.
Both new players arrived at VIU from other institutions, Mortimer from Lower Columbia College in Washington and Vekic a transfer from Kwantlen University. Other newcomers include Jami Oliver, Joelene Nagy, and Megan Cawthorne.