FAIRBANKS, Alaska - While the student athletes work on their finals, we're going to be talking about Midterms.
Three coaches at the University of Alaska are halfway through their first seasons with the Nanooks and they're going to be our focus for this week's Nanook Corner.
First off we'll focus on the Nanook Hockey team who are being led by new head coach Erik Largen. The Nooks have gotten off to a 4-12-2 start to the year with a 4-7-1-1 conference record. They are seventh place in the WCHA with 14 points, seven in front of the eighth place Ferris State. Largen, who is from right here in Fairbanks and played for the Nanooks in college, reflects on his first semester as head coach for his hometown team.
"Overall we are happy with the progress. We have taken steps forward, it just hasn't shown up in the results that we wanted to far. It's been a wave of emotions I think. When you go through you're excited about it, there's some anxiety, there's some fear, and things like that. But overall it's been a great experience for me personally. I learn a lot every single day," said Largen.
Largen and his young team look forward to the second half of the season.
"I think there's going to be some dramatic improvements in the areas we've been stressing and talking about as a team and some individual improvements from some of the younger players. So it's nice to see how they've progressed already," said Largen.
For the Men's Basketball Team, they were able to land the winningest head coach in GNAC Men's Basketball in former Central Washington Coach Greg Sparling. After getting a group together in a short time, the Nanook men started the year at 0-4 before climbing to a 4-5 record, including their first win over UAA since 2014. Coach Sparling reflects on getting this current group together.
"We had a short time to put a team together, I mean they had nine guys back and we had to go out and find some guys, fortunately in the N-WAC there's some guys still left, that's the Northwest Community College down there in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. We were fortunate to find some guys that were considered late. The guys that came back and the guys that are new... it's been a little bit of a challenge but I think we get better daily," said Sparling.
The Nanook women's team also had a new leader this year. Kerri Nakamoto was named head coach after a lengthy search this summer. They had a massive test to start the year with an exhibition contest against the Ruthy Hebard-led Oregon Ducks. A three game winning streak followed, giving the Nooks a 3-5 record so far this year.
"Everyone has been really supportive, from the players, to the parents, to the community members who have come up to games and done all that. It's been nice for everyone just being on board and excited about change and the program and just wanting us to be successful," said Nakamoto.
Nakamoto looks forward to the challenges that 2019 has to offer, and a chance to see this team grow.
"I think people are going to be surprised. A lot of people in the past have overlooked us or, they didn't really prepare for us because they are preparing for Anchorage on this road trip. Our goal is to make playing here in Fairbanks as difficult as possible," said Nakamoto.