By: Ruby Arani/ GCU Staff
The 2018-19 season for the Grand Canyon University Women’s Club Basketball team was filled with brand-new opportunities and establishing name recognition in the arena of women’s club basketball. In the fall of 2018, GCU Club Sports announced the creation and establishment of the Arizona Women’s Basketball League (AWBL). As AWBL reached the heart of its inaugural season, GCU opened the state-of-the-art Canyon Activity Center (CAC) to the vibrant campus.
The first season of AWBL included five teams, including two teams from GCU, GCU Purple and GCU White. GCU Purple dominated AWBL play until week 8 when they suffered their first loss against Bella Vista College Preparatory. The Lopes and Bella Vista met for the last time in the first-ever AWBL Championship, when the Lopes pushed the game to overtime, but Bella Vista pulled off the 58-56 win to go home as the 2018-19 AWBL Champions.
GCU White, mainly made up of freshmen, finished the league in fifth place.
Before the end of AWBL, GCU Purple traveled to Los Angeles, California to compete in the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) Region VI Tournament. The Lopes dominated their way to the championship game, with the goal to reclaim their championship crown, but fell short to the University of Wisconsin, 38-27.
GCU Purple had a successful season, reaching two different championships and establishing GCU as a women’s club basketball force. Lopes’ Head Coach Kyle Speed attributed that to his veteran players.
“I want to give a shout-out to Jaiviana James, Megan Wall, Daesha Banner, Jenny Albano,” said Speed. “These girls have been in this program for three-plus years, and they have done a great job establishing the Grand Canyon Women’s Club Basketball program as a competitor on the circuit.”
“When we show up to gyms, teams know we mean business and that they need to bring their A-Game.”
Year 2 in AWBL
AWBL will be kicking off Year 2 in the winter of 2019, and there is hope there will be new faces and game changers in the league.
“I hope we can add some more teams to the league,” said Speed. “By adding more teams, it would be even more competitive than the first year.”
After a successful first year in AWBL, Speed doesn’t want that momentum to stop.
“I have to get out there and start recruiting get some good quality players,” said Speed. “The level of this league and what we are trying to do has raised this year from the girls we had. If we continue to get buy-ins from the players, we will be right where we want to be.”
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