Sophomores enjoy getting crazy, making impact for WWU women
Jan. 12, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash, -
By DAVID RASBACH -- THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Western Washington University women's basketball coach Carmen Dolfo admits she had a few reservations when Sydney Donaldson and Kayla Bernsen showed up last year as freshmen and announced that they planned to room together in the dorms.
"I guess they met each other after they both committed to come here and decided to room together," Dolfo said in a phone interview. "As a coach, you kind of worry about that - 'What if they don't get along? What will that mean on the court?'"
Turns out Dolfo had nothing to worry about.
The duo got along so well, they decided to live together again as sophomores.
"Once we decided to run together, that was it," Donaldson said in a phone interview. "We have a lot of fun together. We have the same personality - we're both kind of goofy in the same ways."
That might be putting it lightly.
"They have their own sort of language," Dolfo joked. "They are great friends."
Not only have Bernsen's and Donaldson's senses of humor been a perfect match, it's been a perfect fit with the rest of a Vikings team that just seems to enjoy being around each other.
"I think they like us," Bernsen joked. "We're all kind of like a big family. The whole team is funny. We all get along and have a lot of fun, but we know how to focus when we need to focus. We get done what needs to get done."
As sophomores this season, Bernsen and Donaldson have certainly been helping Western get things done on the court - something they hope to continue doing at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12, when they host Simon Fraser at Sam Carver Gymnasium in a battle of the two remaining unbeaten teams in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play.
"We know this is going to be a big game for us," Donaldson said. "They're a tough team. We don't want to put all the power in Simon Fraser's hands, though. We want to come out and play consistent and do what we do."
What Bernsen and Donaldson have done well recently is make an impact.
Though Bernsen has not yet to start for the Vikings this season, she's appeared in all 12, averaging 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. She also leads the team with and is third in the GNAC with 17 blocked shots in only 13.7 minutes per game.
But she really broke out during last week's trip to Alaska.
Bernsen, a 6-foot-3 center from Moses Lake High School, came off the bench to score seven points and pull down three rebounds in a 70-60 win at Alaska Anchorage on Jan. 3, before scoring 16 points and recording nine rebounds on Saturday, Jan. 5, in an 87-59 win at Alaska Fairbanks.
"Kayla struggled a little bit early on," Dolfo said. "Actually, they both had some anemia problems early, and got off to slower starts than they wanted. But they're both healthier, and I thought Kayla had her best game against (Fairbanks). She's so big and so strong, and I think we began to see what she's capable of doing every game."
And it felt really good, Bernsen said, to show that ability.
"It was amazing to be able to contribute like that," she said. "I feel we have a very balanced attack, and there are so many of us that can make big contributions any night. It was great that I was able to do that last week."
Donaldson, a 6-foot forward from Edmonds-Woodway High School, also had a pretty big contribution on the typically difficult trip to the north.
She recorded 10 points, six rebounds and four assists at UAA and put up four points, five rebounds and two assists at UAF.
"I think Kayla and I try to go into the game and bring high energy when we're in there," Donaldson said. "If something is missing, we try to recognize that from the bench and bring that to the court. Sometimes, it's up to the bench to change the pace of the game."
While Bernsen has come off the bench in all 12 games, Donaldson has six starts so far this year.
She is averaging 6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds to go along with her 19 assists, nine blocks and five steals.
"I think they've both made a contribution since they got here last season," Dolfo said. "Sydney's been starting for us in different situations, and we feel Kayla has so much potential. They're both certainly future leaders for us. In fact, they're already leading in their own little ways."
And knowing Bernsen and Donaldson, that way has to involve having fun and being goofy together.
Though they said they save the jokes for off the court, they still enjoy having fun together during games.
"We're serious during games, because we're focused on the game," Donaldson said. "But we still have a lot of fun and get goofy when we're dancing and celebrating on the bench. We just like being goofy together."
That includes continuing the singing and dancing when they're at home, where they're also known to quote old movie lines to each other.
"We're two peas in a pod," Bernsen said. "We're probably each other's biggest fan. We just love getting crazy together."
The Vikings hope to give them a chance to get crazy on Saturday against Simon Fraser.
The Clan enters Saturday second in the GNAC in offense (74.1 points per game) and leading the conference in points allowed (52.8). Western ranks fifth offensively (72.4) and second defensively (58.6).
Senior forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe leads Simon Fraser and is third in the conference with 16.4 points per game and leads the GNAC with 12.8 rebounds per game.
"She's an outstanding player," Dolfo said. "But she also has an outstanding support cast. You can't just focus on taking her out of it and forget about everybody else. Simon is very much an improved team this year, as they have been the past few years. This is going to be a very good test for us."
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