FAYETTEVILLE – Two of Canada’s top collegiate women’s basketball teams are the opponents for the University of Arkansas as the Lady Razorbacks head north for a foreign tour over Labor Day weekend.
Arkansas faces University of British Columbia on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 4 p.m. central time. The Lady’Backs travel to suburban Vancouver to play defending national champion Simon Fraser on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 9 p.m. central.
Combined, UBC and SFU have won five Canadian titles in the past six seasons.
The foreign tour is the second in Lady Razorback history, but the first time for Arkansas before the start of the regular season.
Head coach Tom Collen sees the tour as a perfect event for his young team.
“With a team like ours, the extra 10 days of practice is very important,” Collen said. “The new staff gets a chance to begin installing our system early, and the games give us a great early test.”
Returning senior Sarah Pfeifer echoed her new coach.
“This gives us more time to work on the offense, and to work together as a team,” Pfeifer said. “Plus, it’s a road trip and that’s always a great chance for everyone to get to know each other.”
The Lady’Backs return only three starters from last year’s 18-13 team.
Arkansas begins the two-game road trip with UBC at the Thunderbirds’ War Memorial Gym. The Canada West champion last year and the top-ranked team heading into the 2007 Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championship, UBC reached the consolation finals after an early upset.
The Thunderbirds finished 33-5 last year and were No. 1 ranked for most of the season. UBC has won two CIS national titles in the recent four seasons. While losing Canada West all-star Kelsey Blair stars for the upcoming year, UBC has three players that were selected for the Canadian U21 national team that competed at the FIBA World Championships in Moscow. Two more younger players were picked for the Canadian U19 team participating in the FIBA tournament in Slovakia, and three players, including returning all-Canadian guard Erica McGuinness, are headed to Bangkok for the World University Games.
In addition to facing Arkansas, UBC plays Wichita State.
Simon Fraser is the defending 2007 CIS national champions, and has been a powerhouse in both the Canadian and American college ranks. The NAIA runner-up in 1999 and 2000, SFU won CIS titles in 2002 and 2005 prior to this past year’s championship.
Simon Fraser presents a similar challenge on Sunday with two of its players named to the Canadian Senior National Team, Devon Campbell and Teresa Gabriele. SFU sports the 2007 CIS Championship MVP, 6-4 second-year post player Laurelle Weigl, who was named to the Canadian Junior National Team.
SFU defeated Alberta, 72-68, to win the CIS title in March.
Prior to facing Arkansas, SFU hosts New Mexico State.
Arkansas only other foreign tour for women’s basketball came after the close of the 1999 season with a trip to Australia.