T-wolves set for tip-off

They've played in Vancouver, Victoria, Red Deer and even as far away as Greece.

But that was the preseason for the UNBC women's basketball team.

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Now, the real test gets underway this weekend when the Timberwolves open their season at home at the Northern Sport Centre against the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack of Kamloops.

It's a season where the Timberwolves will try to improve on last year's campaign in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Canada West Explorer Division where they won just four games.

"We only won four games last year and we're just focusing on our team," said third-year guard Kylie Pozniak, one of the co-captains. "We want to be known for grittiness and out-working other teams. We have a drive. We encourage each other and have a very positive energy. I think we're really going to compete. TRU is very talented and we're confident we'll be able to compete against every single team."

Tip-off is 6 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday.

Pozniak, who'll share co-captain duties with second-year guard Hannah Pudlas, is one of eight veterans on the squad, one that's led by head captain, fourth-year forward Jasprit Nijjar.

They'll be joined by guards Stacey Graham (fourth year), Nicole Boon (second year), Eleni Steriopoulou (second year) and forwards Vasiliki Louka (second year) and Emily Aase (third year).

The new recruits include a pair of athletes from Prince George, forward Isabelle Bourque (PGSS) and guard Emily Holmes (Duchess Park). Forward Natasha Layton is a freshman guard from Saskatoon, while guard Maria Mongomo arrived overseas from Las Palmas, Spain.

"Izzy (Bourque) red-shirted with us last year and got up to speed, she's a lot more ready this year," said Pozniak. "Emily, her parents have been part of the program for a long time. Natasha has a year of college (under her belt) before coming out here and it's a nice transition for her that she has that extra year of experience. Maria has a totally different style of play and is extremely hard-working. They're all really good additions to the team.

"I'm really excited. We have a really solid group of hard-working girls. We don't have a stand-out player or a star, but we're really a hard-working team."

Pozniak said having three players as part of the captaincy core gives them a chance to build off each other and lead the team.

When the team arrived on campus in late August, it immediately left for a two-week trip to Greece, one that it had spent two years fundraising for through the Adopt-a-T-wolf program and the junior Timberwolves camps. The T-wolves played against club teams that both Steriopoulou and Louka, who grew up in Greece, were familiar with.

"(The games) were so much fun, they play a very different style of play," said Pozniak. "It was cool to look at their style of play and it not only helped our basketball sense, but it brought us together as a team and I got to be closer with them than I ever have."

Besides TRU and UNBC, the Canada West Explorer Division includes MacEwan University (Edmonton), Mount Royal (Calgary), UBC Okanagan (Kelowna) and the University of Fraser Valley (Abbotsford). The top three teams from the division qualify for the playoffs and will cross over to meet the top seven teams from the Pioneer Division that features the likes of UBC, Victoria, Alberta, Regina and Saskatchewan.

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