Chad Gibney begins a new era at Western Nebraska Community College after being named the head coach of the women’s basketball program in the spring.
Gibney, however, is no stranger to the Cougar women’s program, having served as the interim head coach during the second semester. Under Gibney’s leadership, the Cougars went 17-2, won a Region IX title, and earned a berth at the NJCAA national tournament.
So, what is on tap for this year?
Well, Gibney is excited with the potential of this year’s team.
“We are anxious to get out there and finally put the game uniforms on,” he said. “We are ready to compete for one another and represent western Nebraska and this institution.”
The Cougars, who are ranked 25th in the NJCAA pre-season polls, open the season Nov. 3-4 in Williston, North Dakota, when they face Little Big Horn College on Friday and then No. 24 College of Southern Idaho on Saturday.
Gibney said the team is ready to go.
“We open up with Little Big Horn, who is in Region IX. We are not as concerned about the opposing team; we are more concerned about that we are going out and playing our style of basketball,” he said. “Then, on Saturday, we play College of Southern Idaho, who is pre-season ranked in the top 25. It will be good for us to play a top-ranked team and to be challenged early in the year.”
While Saturday’s contest will be a battle of ranked teams, Gibney said his team being ranked is because of the history of WNCC women’s basketball. He hopes his team can carry o that tradition.
“The ranking is a good indication of how good this program has been, especially in junior college because there is so much turnover that the roster changes from year-to-year,” Gibney said. “The pre-season ranking doesn’t necessarily indicate success going forward, but I think it shows how this program is looked at because of its past successes and the success of this past year’s team.”
The Cougars wrapped up their scrimmages on Sunday with a contest against Western State, and Gibney said they performed well.
“We played well,” Gibney said. “We played Division II Western State from Gunnison, Colorado, and we did a nice job. We had a lot of people contribute and do some nice things. That was very good to see.”
A lot of the focus on the season will be the seven sophomores, who all saw plenty of action a year ago. Leading the charge is Division I verbal commitment Jaleesa Avery, a 6-1 forward/center from Aurora, Colorado. Avery verbally committed with Morehead State in Kentucky in October.
The other returners include 5-7 guard Anastacia Johnson, of Aurora, Colorado; Melisa Kadic, a 5-9 guard from West Valley City, Utah; Olivia Wiberg, a 5-9 guard from Hyrum, Utah; Kellie Gaston, a 5-8 guard from Tampa, Florida; Sophie Agorakis, a 5-10 forward from Melbourne, Australia; and Giovanna Silva, a 5-10 center from Brasília, Brazil.
Gibney said the sophomores have plenty of talent.
“We have a good cohesive group that each person can bring a little different thing to the table for our team to be really successful,” he said. “We are trying to blend those personalities, blend those skill sets, and make sure we can put a group out there that can be competitive.”
The freshman class will also be depended on. The newcomers include Merle Wiehl, a 6-1 forward from Gottingen, Germany; Eva Langton, a 6-1 forward from Stratford, New Zealand; Karli Seay, a 5-7 guard from Rossmoor, Illinois; Fabi Alexandrino, a 6-0 guard from Sao Paulo, Brazil; and local recruit Josie Perez, a 5-7 guard from Gordon.
The Cougars have been bothered by injuries for the past month. Monday was the first time that the team had all 10 players practice together. Most of the pre-season, the team played and practiced with just seven players.
“Today [Monday] was the first day that we had 10 practice in quite a while,” he said. “To have 10 healthy bodies was exciting.”
Gibney said the outlook for the season is good, but they just need to worry about themselves.
“It will be a fun group for people that will go out there and compete, play hard, play smart, and play for one another,” he said.
After this weekend, the Cougars will have a home game on Tuesday, Nov. 7 when they host the Nebraska All-stars at 6:30 p.m. WNCC will then compete in three prestigious classics the next three weekends, Nov. 10-11 at Iowa Western Community College, Nov. 17-18 at Sheridan College, and Thanksgiving weekend at Salt Lake Community College.
“We wanted to have a difficult non-conference schedule and test ourselves early,” Gibney said. “At the end of the year we need to be playing our best basketball and to play really good teams early, can only benefit us.”