By: Ruby Arani/ GCU Staff
The shock effect.
The Grand Canyon University Women’s Club Basketball is coming off a successful 2017-18 season. The Lopes shocked the club basketball arena by a comeback to win the 2018 NIRSA Regional Tournament in Sacramento, California, last February. They took it one step further by reaching the quarterfinals of the NIRSA National Championships two months later in Columbus, Ohio, with only six players in uniform.
The Lopes are not slowing down in 2018-19, since they face a tough preseason line-up to better prepare for a brand new league, defend their NIRSA Regional title, and try to bring home a national championship.
Over the past month, the Lopes have been in full swing at practice in preparation for their preseason schedule. Former GCU Basketball standout, Kyle Speed has been named the new head coach for the program.
“We are creating competition at practice,” said Speed. “I want the girls to come out every single day to compete. The players that are working the hardest and bringing it every day at practice will be a part of the team that competes during the preseason.”
“The competitive culture will give us that winning edge.”
The Lopes’ preseason will include a nine-game schedule against a variety of junior colleges across the state.
“Playing junior colleges is always a good way for the girls to get adjusted to college basketball, and really understand what the demands of the game are at this level,” said Speed.
Arizona Women’s Basketball League
For the 2018-19 season, GCU Club Sports and the GCU Women’s Club Basketball program have created the Arizona Women’s Basketball League (AWBL) to be played in the new GCU Club Sports Facility, the Canyon Activity Center.
The AWBL league was created to generate more opportunities for women’s club basketball programs.
“The mindset of creating the AWBL was to ensure that the girls get not only quality playing time but to play quality competition,” said Speed. “We have five solid teams in the league right now and we are looking to grow. In the future, I see the AWBL to be bigger than what it already is.”
The AWBL-which features Arizona Christian University, Bella Vista Prep, Benedictine University and a pair of teams from GCU-will play a total of 12 league games throughout the season.
The Lopes want to be crowned the first-ever AWBL Champions AND maintain the title as the NIRSA Regional Champions.
“Last season, I don’t think anyone really expected us to be there, let alone win the region,” said Speed. “We want to go back as defending champions, win the region again and compete at nationals.”
The Lopes kick off their preseason schedule this Saturday, October 13 at the GCU Lopes Performance Center against Tohono O’odham Community College. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 pm, and admission is FREE.