Colard continuing family tradition by making impact at Western
March 16, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By DAVID RASBACH -- THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Though it happened nearly seven years ago, Western Washington University sophomore guard Katie Colard remembers it like it was yesterday. And though she was only and eighth grader sitting in the Sam Carver Gymnasium stands at the time, she still uses words like "we" and "us" to describe it.
The last - and only - time the WWU women's basketball team hosted an NCAA Division II West Regional, Colard's older sister, Kelly Dykstra, was a senior on the squad.
"I can remember how exciting it was," Colard said in a phone interview. "I can remember the disappointment when we lost (70-50 to Seattle Pacific in the regional semifinals after beating Northwest Nazarene 66-54 in the first round). I didn't know my sister was sick at the time. She didn't tell us. I kept watching her get subbed in and out and watching the game slip away in the second half, and I had no idea what was happening. I remember the final buzzer and realizing our dream didn't happen."
Now Colard, who is 10 years younger than her sister and 13 years younger than her brother Kevin, who also played football at Western, will get a chance to follow in Dykstra's footsteps and experience playing in an NCAA Tournament in front of her friends and family on her home court.
And this time she wants to see if maybe, just maybe, she and her teammates can complete the dream and help the Vikings win a NCAA Division II regional championship for only the second time in the program's storied history and the first time since 2000.
Top-seeded WWU (25-3), which opens the regional on an eight-game win streak and ranked No. 6 in the USA Today Sports NCAA Division II Top 25 Coaches' Poll, will face Pacific West Conference Tournament champion and eighth-seeded Academy of Art in a 7:30 p.m. first-round game on Saturday, March 16. The game follows three other women's first round games in a busy basketball weekend at Sam Carver, as Western is hosting both the men's and women's regional in the same year for the first time.
"We really don't know exactly what to expect," WWU women's coach Carmen Dolfo said in a phone interview. "I just know it's going to be a lot of fun starting (Friday) afternoon, with four more nights of fun to follow. The men's team is so excited, and so are we. We're really hoping the community will come out and support both teams, because they can make a huge difference."
Colard obviously knows how exciting it can be to take in those games, but that is nothing compared to what she's expecting to experience on the court this year.
But that's exactly why she chose to follow in her siblings' footsteps to play and study at Western after she graduated from Elma High School in 2010.
"When I came here on my recruiting visit, I loved how intense they were," Colard said. "They have a tradition of loving the game here. They're always working harder than the other team, and they take pride in that. I came here knowing that's how they play, and that's how I wanted to play."
After red shirting the 2010-11 season, there's no doubt that Colard has fit in with that attitude.
As a freshman last season, she saw action in all 30 games for the Vikings, averaging 5.8 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 14.1 minutes per game.
This season, she has worked her way in as a regular starter, getting the nod in 22 of Western's 28 games so far.
In fact, Colard is the only sophomore starter on a lineup that sports first-team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference seniors Britt Harris and Corinn Waltrip, second-team All-GNAC senior Trishi Williams and junior Sarah Hill.
"We didn't really know who was going to take that spot coming into the year," said Dolfo, who was selected GNAC Coach of the Year. "It was pretty wide open. Katie's defense has really improved this year. Everybody knows that she's a good shooter, but she's got greater poise on the court. She's smart and she's a great passer. ... When we had Katie in there, it was the combination that seemed to work best for us. Right after Christmas was when we decided to make a commitment to that, and it's worked."
Not just worked, but thrived.
Since the first of the year, Western has gone 17-1, won the GNAC regular-season and tournament championships and earned the top ranking in the West Region and the right to host the regional.
Colard definitely has played a big role in that, as she's averaged 7.9 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists this season.
And most importantly, she's fit in perfectly with an otherwise veteran starting lineup - kind of like a fifth finger on a glove for a relatively deep team.
"We obviously have a lot of experience," Dolfo said. "But they trust Katie and they realize Katie is smart. It's not just her being the youngest one out on the court, she adds to what we do on the floor. Because she is so smart, we've tried to get her to be more verbal, and she's done that."
Colard said that because she is Western's youngest starter, she feels more comfortable speaking up one-on-one, leaving the group speeches to her more experienced teammates, but she said she feels comfortable in leadership positions and will welcome that role even more when she is one of the upperclassmen on the team.
The experience she has gotten this year certainly won't hurt, either.
"The seniors on this team have put their time in, and I definitely don't want to take anything away from them," Colard said. "It's been an honor to play with them and learn from them. I love the fact that they are good leaders. Things are a whole lot easier when you have leaders like Britt and Corinn and Trishi on your team. It's nice to put that on their shoulders, and they've done a great job with it. I love this team, because we're so much like a family."
And there is nothing more that Colard and her teammates would like to do over the next four days than win three more games and book a "family vacation" to San Antonio, Texas, for a little more basketball in the Elite Eight - something the Vikings were unable to do the last time Western hosted a regional.
"Carmen talked about not letting that (hosting the regional) be a curse," Colard said. "It would mean a lot if we could win and move on. A lot of the players from that team are still watching and following. We want to win it for us and for them. We've worked too hard to let this opportunity slip away."
Letting it slip away is one thing.
Having it taken away is another, as there is plenty of talent in the rest of the regional bracket capable of doing just that.
Combined, the seven other teams in the bracket own a .733 winning percentage (148-54), and two of the Vikings' three losses were suffered to teams that will be in Bellingham this weekend - fourth-seeded Chico State (75-74 on Dec. 7 at Chico) and second-seeded Simon Fraser (74-59 Feb. 9 at Burnaby, B.C.).
"Honestly, we're playing the eighth-seeded team, and they're so impressive," Dolfo said. "I think every one of these eight teams has a number of very good players and is capable of winning this thing. They're all so close. Usually, you've got the top four that are stronger than the next four, but not this year. This is the way it should be for a postseason tournament."
As Colard was preparing for that challenge, she got a little advice from close to home - a note from Dykstra, who is now an assistant coach at Lynden Christian on Curt De Haan's girls' basketball staff.
"I know it's still a tough subject for her," Colard said. "But she wrote me this little note I actually got today (Thursday, March 14). It said 'Have no regrets. Leave it all on the floor. You don't get many opportunities like this, so you don't want any regrets coming out of this game.' Having her tell me that means the world to me."
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