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Huskies have 'something to prove' heading into USport basketball championship, coach says

Huskies' Tea Demong (left)  and Gage Grassick (right) will play pivotal roles at this year's national championship.  (Liam Richards/Electric Umbrella - image credit)
Huskies' Tea Demong (left) and Gage Grassick (right) will play pivotal roles at this year's national championship. (Liam Richards/Electric Umbrella - image credit)

The University of Saskatchewan women's basketball team is heading into the USport national championship as the No. 1 seed, and with a chip on their shoulder.

The Huskies blazed through the regular season with a 19-1 record and then demolished the opposition to win the Canada West title and a berth in the national championship that begins today in Edmonton.

"I think we came out at the very beginning of our exhibition play with something to prove," said head coach Lisa Thomaidis, who was named coach of the year on Wednesday night.

"Our team really came out with that drive to show we are one of the best teams in the country and we're out to prove something this year."

Third-year guard Gage Grassick is ready to take on the best at this year's Canadian women's university championship.
Third-year guard Gage Grassick is ready to take on the best at this year's Canadian women's university championship.

Third-year guard Gage Grassick is ready to take on the best at this year's Canadian women's university championship. (Derek El/Electric Umbrella)

The Huskies start their campaign for the Canadian university championship tonight at 7 p.m. against the University of Calgary Dinos.

Last year the Huskies had their eight-year streak of appearances at the championship end.

But they are back with a vengeance and have their sights set on a third national championship in the last eight years.

Third-year guard Gage Grassick runs the offence and said this Huskies team can win in a number of ways.

"We have a diverse group," Grassick said. "We can get the ball inside. We can shoot it from a long range and then we can run the floor with a lot of pace that some teams can't keep up with."

University of Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis was named coach of the year.
University of Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis was named coach of the year.

University of Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis was named coach of the year. (Brayden Elliott)

Thomaidis said the players have a balanced attack, but it's their play on the defensive side of the ball that has impressed her.

"I think we're one of the best defensive teams in the country," Thomaidis said.

"We feel we've got the best defensive player in the country in Andrea Dodig. She was not with us last season, recovering from an ACL injury, so having her back is a huge boost.

"And then add her into the mix of some players who really take pride in their defence and it's really come together at the right time."

Besides the Huskies, the Carleton Ravens (OUA champions: 21-1), Saint Mary's Huskies (AUS champions: 17-3) and Laval Rouge et Or (RSEQ champions: 16-0) round out a formidable top four.

"There's a few favourites maybe to win the national title, but certainly we are in contention, which is fantastic," Thomaidis said.

"I think this entire season we've come out with a bit of a chip on our shoulder from last year's disappointment. You know, I think there's a saying that says, character is really revealed when you come back from not getting what you want. And last year was a very good example of that."

Huskies Andrea Dodig (left) will help lead the team at both ends of the floor.
Huskies Andrea Dodig (left) will help lead the team at both ends of the floor.

Huskies Andrea Dodig (left) will help lead the team at both ends of the floor. (Liam Richards/Electric Umbrella)

"[We] trained with a renewed energy that I haven't seen in a while. I think sometimes when you win a lot, people seem to think it becomes easier, but in fact it's the exact opposite."

The Huskies last won the national title in 2020 and Thomaidis said this team has the ingredients to win it all.

"There's certainly other teams that are gunning for us and are playing at a very high level as well. So we'll be excited to take them on [in] Edmonton."