Dwight Gunnare is ready to start the season. And the Casper College women’s basketball coach finds out this week if his team feels the same way.
The Thunderbirds open the 2017-18 season Wednesday at Eastern Wyoming College before playing home games against Utah State Eastern and Otero Junior College this weekend.
“I couldn’t be happier with where we are right now,” Gunnare said. “We had as good of a preseason as I can remember since I’ve been here.”
Gunnare, who is beginning his 10th season on the T-Birds’ bench, likes the mix of veterans and newcomers on this year’s roster.
“We have a talented group of sophomores coming back and I think we have a really good freshman class,” he said. “And I really like the fact that we have depth at every position.”
The depth starts at point guard where sophomores Bruna Vila Artigues and Rose Altunbulak will lead the Casper College offense.
Despite averaging just 3.5 points per game last year, Gunnare said Vila Artigues has had one of the most impressive preseasons of any player on the roster. Altunbulak was the starting point guard last year before a knee injury in the third game sidelined her for the season. According to Gunnare, she has fully recovered and will play this week.
In the post, the T-Birds will count on 6-foot-3 sophomore Emily Robertson, 5-10 sophomore Natalia Panufnik and 5-10 freshman Lucie Hoskova.
Robertson, a Natrona County High School graduate, averaged 8.8 points per game off the bench. Panufnik started 26 games last season, averaging 9.2 points per game and is the team’s leading returning rebounder at 5.4 per game.
“It’s going to be important that we have balance inside and outside,” Gunnare said. “I like what we have with our returning post players, and I think Lucie is going to log a lot of minutes for us.”
With Casper College playing three games in five days, Gunnare believes this week presents the opportunity for the T-Birds to keep working on their game, as a team and individually.
“We’re going to use these games to evaluate ourselves and not necessarily worry about our opponents,” he said. “We played seven jamboree games in the preseason, but this is a chance for us to see how the girls react in game situations.”
The T-Birds finished 22-9 last season (11-3 in the Region IX North sub-region) and lost to Northwest College 70-69 in overtime in the quarterfinals of the Region IX tournament.
Both games this weekend tip off at 5:30 p.m. at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym.