Off the heels of an OUA East title in 2013-14, a returning core has women’s basketball primed to thrive once again.
The Gaels finished second overall in the province last season, bowing out to the Windsor Lancers in the OUA final, before dropping both of their games at the CIS championships.
Queen’s 2014-15 campaign tips off tonight, with a road game against the Lakehead Thunderwolves.
“We’re a very solid group, returning from last year,” said Gaels head coach Dave Wilson. “We have goals to see if we can get a little higher and a little further into the nationals.” The Gaels’ top seven scorers from last season are all back. Chief among the returnees is Liz Boag, a fifth-year point guard that led the team with 3.5 assists per game in 2013-14, while adding 12 points per game.
Three other double-digit scorers are also back: post Robyn Pearson and wings Jenny Wright and Gemma Bullard, who gave the Gaels depth last year. Queen’s was the only OUA school other than Windsor with a quartet of players that put up 10 or more points a game.
“We’ve picked off where we left off, which is not that common when you have to bring in more newer players,” Wilson said.
The one new wrinkle to the Gaels’ season will be the OUA’s realignment of its basketball conferences. Once a member of the eight-team OUA East, Queen’s is now in a smaller division alongside the Ryerson Rams, Toronto Varsity Blues and York Lions.
Additionally, the playoff structure has evolved. The 12 best teams in the province will make the playoffs, regardless of their division.
“It’s reduced our game schedule a little bit, so that’s one thing. I don’t know if it’s reduced our travel much,” Wilson said. “I think the biggest impact is probably going to come at playoff time when we see how the matchups on the re-seeding of the whole province.”
Wilson said any success this year will come from building on what they produced in the second half of last season. The Gaels ripped off seven straight wins to end the regular season, then won twice in the playoffs before losing the OUA final.
The team needs to learn how to play with a target on their backs from other teams, Wilson added, and they’ll change their mindset to deal with that.
“We’re trying to focus on our execution instead of our outcome to keep us grounded and humble in a sense,” he said.
With a high-powered offence already in place, Queen’s goal for this year will be to improve on the defensive side. The Gaels allowed 56.8 points per game, tied for the fifth-best mark in Ontario.
Wilson said with such a strong offence, improving the defence even more is the way to push the team to the next level.
“Because the composition of our team isn’t significantly different than it was in the past, if we’re going make leaps, it’s going to be on defence,” he said.
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