If there’s any nervousness or tension on the part of the Kwantlen women’s basketball team, it’s not showing.
The night before the big dance – their first round playoff matchup against the Quest University Kermodes – head coach Dan Nayebzadeh is the picture of calm and collection.
“I don’t feel very nervous, I’m actually watching a TV show,” said Nayebzadeh over the phone late Wednesday night, his voice very relaxed and composed. “I kind of have to let the chips fall where they may, can’t really think about it too much. It’s uncertain who’s going to win and you can’t really control those things. You just have to control what you can – show up and play as hard as you can and see what happens.”
Nayebzadeh and his team had just finished a dinner, and he explained that it was lighthearted and full of laughs. The camaraderie between the girls has been the catalyst for the their success throughout the PacWest grind.
The growth, both on the court and within the relationships that the girls have built stands out as Nayebzadeh’s proudest achievement. Not that he can take full credit for the bonding and maturity process that has propelled the team to the postseason, yet his demeanor has undoubtedly tightened this close-knit bunch.
But their opponent is looking to completely disrupt that. The Kermodes finished one place above the Eagles with a 13-8 record – good enough for a fourth place seeding. Kwantlen, who split their final two games of the season, sits in fifth with a 10-11 record.
Quest may be entering their first-round matchup with the momentum of having won three straight to finish the regular season, but the silver lining for Kwantlen is that their last victory came at Camosun – the site of this year’s provincial tournament.
“I think we match up quite well. We’ve beaten them twice they’ve beaten us once, and all the games have been close and competitive so we feel pretty good,” said Nayebzadeh. “We’ve played well at Camosun, they’ve played well at Camosun. I certainly think that we can shoot the ball well at Camosun, so maybe that will be an advantage.”
Although a gold medal, or even a podium finish is quite a tall task for an Eagles team that failed to beat Capilano University, Vancouver Island University and Douglas College – the first, second, and third ranked teams – their bench boss isn’t ready to rule anything out.
“I actually think any one of these six teams could win the whole thing – they’re not that far apart in terms of who’s a better team,” said Nayebzadeh. “It just depends if someone can put together three good games. To be honest, [sixth-place] Camosun could win it all. So it’s anyone’s tournament as long as they come prepared and ready to play three tough games.”
But at the same time, he knows that he can’t think too far ahead in the future.
“I think it would be a prideful moment if we can win the gold. But, you just can’t look at it that way. I think you kind of have to take it one step at a time. It would certainly make history, because that’s never happened with [Kwantlen] women’s basketball. But we just can’t go in with an attitude of ‘what would it be like’ because that could psyche ourselves out. We just have to play as hard as we can.”
His sentiment echoes in his description of his team’s mood heading into the most important game of the season.
“The girls are pretty humble. I don’t think that they’ve accomplished enough to be arrogant. But I think they’ve accomplished enough to be confident.”
The PacWest provincial tournament tips off at Camosun College in Victoria today at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. Both the men’s and women’s quarterfinals take place through the day, with the Kwantlen women opening the draw against Quest at 1:00 pm.
For live video streaming of each game, go to www.sportscanada.tv