By: Dwayne Tingley
Fifth-year guard Haillie Nickerson believes the Memorial Sea-Hawks have caught a lot of teams off-guard this season.
The Sea-Hawks have entered a month-long holiday break in first place in the AUS women's basketball conference with a 6-2 record and 16 points.
"I don't think a lot of people expected us to have such a good start to the season," said the 22-year-old shooting guard.
"Everyone believes in themselves on our team, so we haven't been surprised with our own success," she added. "We work hard, and we believe in our team. Most of our success comes from the confidence we have in ourselves."
The Sea-Hawks finished with a 9-11 record last season and they lost some key contributors this year, but their quick start has eliminated any doubts the team might have had.
"A lot of people had questions about our team, but we never lost faith in ourselves," said Nickerson, a Grimsby, Ont. native who leads the conference in scoring with an average of 22.9 points per game.
"We know it's going to be tougher in the second half, so we just have to keep playing together as a team and working hard every day in practice."
The two-time defending champion Acadia Axewomen enter the break in second place with 14 points and a 6-1 record.
They are followed by the Saint Mary's Huskies (5-2, 12 points), UPEI Panthers (5-2, 10 points), Cape Breton Capers (2-5, six points), UNB Reds (2-5, four points), StFX X-Women (1-6, two points) and Dalhousie Tigers (1-5, two points).
Sea-Hawks head coach Mark English said most teams still have 12-14 games to play in the regular season and positions are still "wide open" and teams will have to bring their best effort to every game.
"I feel the key to our first semester success has been our team dynamic," English said. "Everyone has a good understanding of their roles, and each player is doing a great job of excelling in that role."
He cited consistency and confident shooting as the keys to performing well during the second half of the season.
"We have had a few games where we don't shoot the ball particularly well on night one and come out the next day and do a much better job with that," English said. "So, just focusing on letting our preparation spark our confidence will be a key."
Meanwhile, Axewomen head coach Len Harvey is "quite happy" with the first half and he sees his team improving every day.
"They're a fun group to coach and were really starting to gel and make serious progress on the court," Harvey said. "We have potential to be very tough. We're just continuing to work on our consistency for 40 minutes.
"We've had a number of players step into more significant roles this season, and players we expected to be very solid have come back even better than expected."
The Subway AUS Basketball Championship event is scheduled for Feb. 28-March 1 at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.