Royals expectations rise as sophomore, rookies gel

Replacing an All-Canadian and all-time PacWest leader won't be easy, but Douglas College has put in place the pieces to challenge for a provincial championship

Restocking the shelf with an eye on competing again for a PacWest playoff berth, the Douglas College Royals unveiled its newest recruits for the women’s basketball program last week.

Among the new players are an MVP, a powerful inside-the-paint player and a three-point sniper.

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It's going to take all that and more to help replace a PacWest MVP and All-Canadian star, however.

Douglas head coach Steve Beauchamp has the benefit of building around a lot of returnees, with a roster that includes 11 sophomores looking to build upon last year’s provincial run.

Although the team was bumped out in the quarterfinals, and will have to carry on without fifth-year grad Rachel Beauchamp, the new names will provide an injection of energy, skill and hope that is always helpful when mapping out a long season.

“We had a lot of freshmen last year, and they gained a lot of experience,” remarked coach Beauchamp, who continues behind the bench without the team’s top scorer and rebounder, who also happens to be his daughter.

Rachel Beauchamp set the tone for the program the past five years, helping guide them to the 2017 national championship tournament, earning three-time All-Canadian awards as well as back-to-back PacWest Player of the Year honours.

The Surrey native put up an amazing record, establishing a new PacWest all-time record for rebounds with 822 over 92 games played. During her time with Douglas she also posted 1,263 points, good enough for second all-time in league scoring. So, while replacing her on-court presence will likely be too huge a task, the Royals coach says he feels there are among the returnees those who can help make up what Beauchamp the player provided. But it will take a village, as the saying goes.

It all comes down to those second-year Royals to fill in the blanks.

“What they gained was a chance to work with Rachel, as we built the team around an All-Canadian and provincial all-star (last year),” the coach noted. “Now that she’s gone, we need our returning sophomores to take that next step, take up the torch.”

Of those whom bigger opportunities awaits are New West’s Devin Strome, Vancouver’s Malena Mokhovikova and Sydney Fraess of Chilliwack.

The trio had decidedly different roles in 2018/19, with six-foot-one Mohkovikova, and Strome, six-feet even, given supporting positions to Beauchamp. Mohkovikova, while averaging 19.5 minutes per game, led the squad with 2.4 blocked shots per game and finished second with 7.1 rebounds a night. Strome saw less playing time, averaging 18 minutes, and contributed four-points a game. They are part of the solution, coach Beauchamp said, to replacing the retired forward’s 19.3 points per game and 13.1 average rebounds. Fraess was often a starter but also counted upon as an energy player who averaged 9.5-points per game at point guard.

“I’m really pleased with the work that Sydney has put in, she’s poised to step into a bigger role this year,” said the coach. “I really like what we’ve seen from Devin in workouts. She’s embraced the idea of working in the weight room, and of the need to get bigger and stronger.

“There’s also a great opportunity for Malena and Shaelynn (Tolerton) from a forward perspective, and I’m hoping they’ll seize it. We know (Mohkovikova) can block shots, and we’re hoping she’ll be a bigger part of the offensive execution.”

Another strong returnee, guard Cassandra Brinn of Richmond, struggled through injuries but still averaged over 20 minutes per game. Coach Beauchamp says having a healthy Brinn would go a long way to solidifying the back court.

"(Brinn) was really bitten by the injury bug, but seeing her go at full speed in practice without those nagging injuries is really exciting."

Those players will enter the new season with experience to build on, and will get to mentor the incoming rookies.

Leading the new recruits are Langley’s Hailey Van Roekel, Arizona native Sierra Gallego and Burnaby’s Jalynne Huynh as players who will bring energy and skill to the program.

Van Roekel was a member of the Langley Christian Secondary, who finished third at last spring’s 2-A provincials. A talented distributor, Van Roekel was named the Fraser Valley tourney MVP as well as a provincial all-star.

“I chose Douglas because it's closer to home, and when I went for a visit all the girls were super nice and seemed like they knew the balance between fun and working hard,” she said in a press release.

Beauchamp believes the guard from Langley can make the step to collegiate sports smoothly.

“We're pretty excited to have (Van Roekel) join our program," he stated. "She brings good size and awareness from her position at point and off-guard, and I'm expecting her to step right in."

Gallego has played university ball before, having had brief stints with both the Winnipeg Wesmen and University of Northern B.C. over the past two years but limited floor time. Douglas’ coach feels the Arizona product can lead the play when she’s on the court.

“(Sierra) red shirted at (UNBC), and what we’ve seen so far in practice is a pretty dynamic point guard who can help us in the area of ball handling.”

A key player with the Burnaby Central Wildcats, Huynh has dominated the high school level with her shooting prowess, especially from the three-point range, and indelible desire to push the play.

Douglas’ coach expects her to be a pacesetter when it comes to ball handling duties.

"She makes up for a lack of size with her determination and shooting awareness."

The Royals also inked Sarah Sloan, a two-way player from Holy Cross, Chantelle Zinger of Maple Ridge, whom Beauchamp says has huge upside, Kenya Reid from Kamloops, a forward that has strong inside-the-paint skills, and Haley Hanchard of Queen Charlotte, who will red-shirt this year.

The team will continue to hold regular practices for the upcoming season, which officially won’t tip off until Nov. 1. Coach Beauchamp has lined up a slate of exhibition tests starting in September, that include a trip to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology tournament in early October.

The mountain to get to next year’s Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s national tourney won’t be easy, but with perennial B.C. power Vancouver Island hosting the championship, B.C. will have an additional berth. The Royals certainly are aiming to be in that mix.

“I’m pretty excited about what we’re putting together for this season,” coach Beauchamp said. “We’ve made, through recruiting, a conscious effort to address areas where we need to improve. We also have a large returning group who now know what it takes to compete at this level.

“Our goal is to hopefully be in the (PacWest) final, but we know just how competitive the league is.”

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