Updated: Feb 10, 2018
As the University of Victoria Vikes prepare to host the Fraser Valley Cascades in a Canada West play-in contest, head coach Dani Sinclair reflects on her experiences coaching this team of girls who have etched a place in her heart.
“I honestly have to pinch myself every day to have the opportunity to do this job,” she says. “And to be able to coach full-time and work with elite athletes and really hard-working, great young women is pretty fun. It’s been a great ride so far and [I’m] looking forward to playoffs starting this weekend.”
Sinclair is in her fifth year of coaching at UVic – a university she idolized growing up in Ontario. She even had the chance to play for Victoria too, so it’s no surprise that her passion for this team goes far beyond the coaching role.
Just ask fourth year guard Kristy Gallagher.
“She’s been really great. We’ve had our moments but I think that’s what’s made our relationship really strong. I feel super comfortable with her now and I feel like she has confidence in me in that way, too.”
Guard Kristy Gallagher - APShutter.com
Gallagher, from Sidney, BC, respects her head coach and the sheer drive she has for her team.
“She’s kind of a superhero in the way that she gave birth and then coached 12 hours later. So that definitely gained a lot of respect from I think everybody in the basketball community for her,” say Gallagher.
Sinclair’s coaching style and focus has pushed the Vikes on a 12 game winning streak leading up to the winner-take-all game against the Cascades.
“It’s interesting because it’s a provincial rival. We just came off a weekend against UBC and it’ll be similar with Fraser Valley. These athletes on both sides have grown up playing together and playing against each other,” says Sinclair. “There’s a lot of familiarity. So that adds to the excitement and the intensity of the game.”
Although this may be a # 5 team against # 7, the game will not be an easy win for the Vikes. In fact, Coach Sinclair emphasizes that the Cascades will be a tough matchup.
“They have two fifth year players who play prominent roles for them and they’re not going to be going down without a fight.”
Despite UVic finishing within the top four of their conference, the Rating Percentage Index (RPI) ranking system has forced the Vikes to compete in the play-in contest versus UFV.
“Our athletes had a goal of finishing top four and getting a bye. Well, we achieved that in a sense. We finished top four. Whether we got a bye or not in a lot of ways wasn’t within our control. We can’t control the schedule and who the strength of our opponents and all that, that plays into RPI,” she says.
RPI is used to rank teams based on their wins and losses, and strength in their schedule. And while finishing top four doesn’t seem to matter these days, Sinclair says the team has focused on the positive.
“For a team that’s on a roll, continuing to play we see as an advantage. If we had a bye, we would have been sitting without a game for two weeks. And I think our girls have shown resilience against some adversity or some odds against us,” she says. “And you could say this is another one.”
Gallagher being one of them: During her second year, Gallagher sustained a knee injury that required surgery. This forced her to miss the remainder of that second year and her entire third year.
However, overcoming adversity is something the Vikes have done very gracefully. Gallagher believes this team is “really meshing together” and is one of the best teams she’s been on in this program.
In regards to the UFV matchup, Gallagher praises her team’s ability to stay focused as a whole, rather than anticipate their opponents every move.
“I think if you get too caught up on the other team you can kind of lose sight of how to get the job done. So we focus on what we need to do. We know that we can’t let them get offensive boards; we need to get defensive stops. As long as we’re playing good defense, I think we’re okay. That’s how we tend to roll. We get momentum off of our defense.”
“At the end of the day we’ve tried to really focus on what we have done well and we feel like if we play our game, and in our gym, we should be able to have some success,” she says.
Being home definitely has its advantages. One of them being an entire crowd cheering loud and proud for the yellow and blue team that has truly grown together over the past five years that Sinclair has donned the head coach cap.
Amira Giannattasio - APShutter.com
Off the court, Sinclair appreciates the moments she spends with her girls.
“To see them develop as not only basketball players—but also as people—is amazing. It’s my favourite part of the job for me.”
Come cheer on Coach Dani Sinclair and guard Kristy Gallagher with the University of Victoria Vikes as they take on the Fraser Valley Cascades in an intense winner-take-all contest tonight (Friday, Feb. 9th). Game time is 7 pm inside the CARSA Performance Gym.
Written by: Crystal Scuor