With a potential national tournament berth on the line Friday night, there’s no place like home for the women’s basketball team.
The Gaels are taking their historic 19-1 record to the ARC this weekend, hosting the OUA Critelli Cup Final Four.
As the number one seed, the Gaels will host the number four Windsor Lancers in the semi-finals on Friday night, while Carleton and McMaster will play in the other semi-final matchup. A victory on Friday would send the Gaels into the OUA finals on Saturday night, in turn sending them to compete in Victoria, BC for the U Sports Nationals.
The Journal had the opportunity to catch up with head coach Dave Wilson, as well as players Emily Hazlett and Robyn Pearson to discuss their perspectives going into the final stretch. The team is confident going into their
semi-final game against Windsor, as they’ve already beat the Lancers in the ARC 73-56 on January 7.
“We’re definitely going to look to the things that gave us success the last time we played against them,” Pearson said. “We really beat them in our defensive pressure and getting out and running on them. They have a much smaller bench than we do and I think we can use that to our advantage again.”
However, the setting is different this time as the playoff environment could spark unforeseen pregame jitters.
“Obviously, it’s way bigger of a game because of the opportunity to win the OUA final, but I think if we go out there and treat it the same way [as an ordinary game] that it’ll allow the younger players to not get as nervous or as worried about the game as they are right now,” said Hazlett.
Queen’s has many reasons to go into the final four confident. They have one of the most well balanced attacks in Canada, as well as the joint-best record in Canada at 19-1, tied with Carleton.
Coach Wilson attributes the team’s success to their ability to stay focused all season.
“We’ve played very solid basketball. We have depth and that has allowed us to rotate people in and out and run different styles of play depending on who’s successful on a given day. Depending on who’s struggling there’s players that are ready to step up,” Wilson said.
The Gaels’ bench will give them an edge over teams this weekend, and they intend to take full advantage of this quality.
“We have one of the deepest benches in the country,” said Pearson. “In the fourth quarter the fact that we’ve been able to still roll in new bodies has really given us an edge this year, just because the other teams were playing their starters over 35 minutes and we are still coming out fresh in the fourth quarter and OT.”
Even with a lot of confidence going into this weekend, Wilson knows the team can still improve to solidify a national championship berth.
“Our confidence is affected more than I would like it to be based on our shooting percentage,” said Wilson. “When we’re shooting well, people are happy but when our shooting percentage drops … it reflects itself in other aspects of our game, which we need to avoid.”
“So, if we can maintain our intensity even when our shooting percentage is down we can still have the ability to win with other weapons that we have.”
The Gaels will be looking to win both games this weekend, sending them to Victoria, BC to compete for a national title.
“Being at home will give us a lot of confidence,” said Pearson. “We love playing in our gym, we have some of the best fans in the country.”
Their first game is against Windsor at 6 p.m. in the ARC. If they win, they will play at 8 p.m. on Saturday for OUA gold.
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