Playing Vikings women’s basketball about more than the sport

Veteran player appreciates support from teammates, alumni and financial aid program.

Keri Sweetman - 12 December 2023

Tayah Fiveland
Tayah Fiveland during a Vikings women's basketball game (Photo: Bryan Krebs).

Tayah Fiveland will have a lot of great memories when she graduates next spring from the Augustana faculty of the University of Alberta. Many of them will be about basketball.

Fiveland was the leading scorer and top rebounder last year on the Vikings women’s basketball team, which went to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national finals last year for only the second time in the team’s history. She was also nominated for the school’s athlete of the year award for her performance last year.

She and her teammates are hoping to be back at the nationals this year – and they have lots of help to get there. That includes financial support through Augustana’s Adopt-a-Viking Team program, where donors contribute to team expenses such as travel, meals on the road, exhibition games and scholarships. Some of the donors are Augustana alumni who played for one of the Vikings teams themselves.

For the women’s basketball team, the support is more than financial. Fiveland enjoys getting to know people who played on the team before her and building connections with them. “They definitely help with so many things, coming to games, having people there to lean on. We feel their moral support all the time.”

Fiveland was raised in Pigeon Lake, less than 100 kilometres from the Augustana campus in Camrose. She attended summer basketball camps on the campus and had met some of the players even before she applied to study there. 

Now in her fifth year of a psychology degree, Fiveland had planned to graduate last year, but after the team’s 2022-23 success, she decided to extend her studies to play one final season with the Vikings. She hopes to study sports psychology after she graduates from Augustana.

Being a varsity athlete has taught her time-management skills and made her a better student, she said. Fiveland recently received a 2022-23 National Scholar Award from the CCAA, recognizing student-athletes who achieve honours standing in academics while competing in intercollegiate athletics.

Going into the nationals in Hamilton, Ont. last year, the Vikings were considered underdogs, with a lot of young players on the team and no national experience. “We went out early but it was such a cool experience because none of us had been there before.” 

Fiveland says the women’s basketball team is a tight-knit, supportive group. “I love the sport. I love competing, and the feeling you get when you’re successful. I love the team dynamic, leaning on each other, getting to see your best friends every day.”

Amanda Stonehouse
Augustana and Vikings women's basketball team alumna, Amanda Stonehouse. (Photo: supplied).

For Augustana grad Amanda Stonehouse, ’16, BMgt, the experience of playing on the Vikings women’s basketball team gave her a community of lifelong friends and taught her life lessons she’s still following today. 

“It taught me a lot about being a human, how to act when you win, how to act when you fail, how to communicate with people when you may disagree with them,” says Stonehouse. “You have something you care about so much, going through it with a bunch of people who care about it as well, and you have to work together to find the best ways forward. There’s learning opportunity after learning opportunity.”

Several years ago, Stonehouse began donating monthly to the Adopt-a-Viking Team program, directing her funds to the women’s basketball team. She played on the team from 2011 to 2015 while obtaining her bachelor of management in business economics (she did a semester abroad in her final year so didn’t play basketball).

Now a financial retirement adviser with SurePath Group in Red Deer, Stonehouse said it’s important to her to support the team and its players, both financially and otherwise. She and other alumni attend as many games as possible and hold fundraising and mentoring events.

“If you can, it’s important to find something you love and put your money toward it. And for me, that’s the Vikings.”