Basketball magic continues

Feb 09, 2002, Vol . 23, No. 3
By Marianne Meadahl

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Alison McNeill's departure from women's basketball at SFU a year ago marked the end of a 13-year relationship between coach and players that some called magic. She may be gone. But it appears the magic has remained. The women's team, under new coach Bruce Langford, has clinched first place and is on its way to a perfect season - 24 wins and no losses, with only two games remaining before playoffs begin.

"It was tough, losing Alison and getting used to playing in a new system," says hoop star Teresa Kleindienst, a five-year veteran of the team.

The team had just left the U.S.-based National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes (NAIA) to compete in the Canada West division. "We were lucky to get Bruce. Most of us have played with him before. He's what we needed."

Langford is a former teacher and coach of the senior girl's basketball team at Mission's Heritage Park secondary school, which churned out grads like Kleindienst and many of the current Clan team members, including Langford's daughter Dani. His style is a little more subdued than McNeill's, who was known for being vocal courtside. "He's a little quieter," notes Kleindienst. "But he's still demanding. He has high expectations and we know it."

Langford was familiar with the players, but he also knew there was a certain mystique that existed about the dream team of previous years. Things would now be different. "My thoughts in the early phase focused on how we would make it through the transition. I was optimistically hopeful things would work," says Langford, an SFU alumnus. Some of the players found certain things were different right off the bat. "These are good kids," he adds. "They were not down on the differences. They waited apprehensively to see what they meant. In the end, they were happy with the results."

A common thread was woven with one single exercise. "Bruce asked us all to write down our one biggest goal for the season," recalls Kleindienst. No one considered taking things slow. "Every one of us wrote that we wanted to win the championship."

That could turn out to be prophetic. The Clan plays its final two games of the season against crosstown rivals UBC on Burnaby Mountain Feb. 8 and 9. On Feb. 8 (at 6:30 p.m.) teams will vie for the Barbara Rae cup.

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