By Ben Macintosh
UPEI Women’s Basketball clinched the first place overall last weekend by winning their final two games of the season against Memorial University (photo credits: Ally Wragg – Memorial Athletics Communications).
UPEI women’s basketball team will be the top-ranked team at this weekend’s Atlantic University Sports Championship.
This weekend they will be in Halifax to compete for the AUS championship.
The Panthers finished the season strong, securing top place in the AUS with a record of 17-3.
The team clinched the first place overall last weekend by winning their final two games of the season against Memorial University.
Fourth-year guard Karla Yepez says clinching the first overall seed helps motivate the team.
“I think it builds up our confidence, we’re feeling pretty confident about what we’re doing as a
team and how we got here.”
She says playoffs are a very exciting experience for the team.
“This is what we work for right? Everyone on our team, if you ask anybody else, everyone is going to tell you that we are so excited, that we are looking forward for this weekend.”
On Feb. 26, the AUS announced the all-stars and major award winners. UPEI’s Jenna Mae Ellsworth was named the AUS most valuable player and best defensive player in the league.
Ellsworth and Reese Baxendale were named to the AUS first team all-stars. Lauren Rainford was named to the all-rookie team.
Yepez said the team has a core group of senior players that work well together.
“For any team that can look to attain something or to reach some sort of goal, it is important to
have your core group and your senior experienced players.”
The Panthers won four games in a row to end the regular season and Head Coach Matt Gamblin says the team is playing well at the right time.
“More than anything you try and peak for the playoffs, we played some of our best basketball this past weekend, when it mattered.”
February has seen the team play six of seven games on the road, their last home game was on the sixth against UNB. Gamblin said the team plays well on the road which bodes well for the championship.
“I think they’ve showed that no matter where we’re at, they play with the same level of intensity and confidence.”
While the team is not content with just finishing first in the AUS standings, Gamblin says it is a step in the right direction for the program.
“We try to show that we can win championships here and we can build a national program here. So I think it’s a step, the jobs are not done.”
The championship games are all in Halifax, Yepez hopes that some UPEI fans will come to sow support.
“We’ve definitely felt the support throughout the season and it would be great if they could be there to witness something important for our school.”
For fans not able to travel to Halifax the games can be watched at AUStv.ca, The Panthers play the winner of UNB and CBU on Saturday at 1 P.M.