| March 24, 2018

Column: Chasing titles

March 20, 2017

Fall was for football on the University of Idaho campus toward the end of 2016. The Vandal football team capped off an unexpected and thrilling season with a bowl game win.

After the Idaho football team finished a strong season on an exciting note, Idaho fans were ready to see the excitement carry over from the football field to the basketball court.

The women headed into the season as the defending 2015-2016 Big Sky Conference champs and the men’s team was filled with promising freshman and transfer athletes.

Throughout the course of the 2016-2017 basketball season the Vandal men and women seemed to follow similar paths. Both teams came out with promising exhibition games, but quickly slowed down throughout the opening part of the season.

In the first 12 games of play, the men won only five and just two games in December alone. Definitely not a winning record. The beginning of the season didn’t paint the best picture for the team and the remainder of the season to come.

The Vandal women had similar troubles to start the year. The returning champs came in with a title to uphold, yet they too saw a slow start to the season. The Vandals finished the 2016 fall season with an identical record to that of the men’s team (5-12).

Despite the slow start, both squads picked up momentum as the season wrapped up. Both sides saw huge performances from star athletes.

In a record breaking game against Northern Arizona, sophomore guard Mikayla Ferenz put up 41 points in the win. With this game, Ferenz put her name on several leader boards, including tied for second most points in a game in program history, as well as tying herself with fellow athlete sophomore guard Taylor Pierce with nine three pointers in a game.

A star performance on the men’s side came from junior guard Victor Sanders who went for a career best 40 points in a win against Portland State. Following his big night, Sanders landed on the all-time points in a game list at seventh place.

While both of these performances were exciting in the moment, they are just as exciting looking ahead. The men and the women’s team were both cut short on their road to the championship.

As someone who slowly became a Vandal basketball fan, I am excited for the years to come for both programs.

Sanders returns for his senior season where the sky is the limit. Freshman guard Trevon Allen showed his skills in his collegiate debut, proving to fans this team is deeper than Sanders.

The “Splash Sisters” Ferenz and Pierce will return as juniors looking to pave the road back to the title game for the team.

The 2016-2017 journey ended sooner than many fans hoped. But this isn’t the end for either team. I am glad to be a Vandal basketball fan, and I look forward to watching both sides blaze the trail to the championship in my years to come.

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

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