Often in sports, the strength of a group is defined by the strength of their leaders. For the women’s basketball team, it’s no different.
During the women’s basketball team’s historic 16-0 run to start the season, the Gaels have been led by fifth year veterans Emily Hazlett and Robyn Pearson. To discuss their unprecedented streak and the program’s highest ever national ranking, third in Canada, The Journal sat down with Hazlett, Pearson and head coach David Wilson.
For Wilson, both players have developed throughout their time at Queen’s. While Hazlett’s tenacity on both ends of the court lifts the spirit of the Gaels, Pearson’s rebounding creates opportunities for the team.
Wilson went on to explain Pearson’s improved emotional maturity, talking about how she developed more confidence in her abilities and learned how to remain calm.
Wilson spoke similarly about Emily Hazlett, who has served Queen’s with her gritty and never-give-up style of play.
“The biggest growth in Haz’s game has been her emotional maturity as well,” he said. “Earlier in her career she played minute by minute, and not looking at a bigger picture, but she is now able to see more of a bigger picture and remain calm when the pressure comes on.” Hazlett agreed with her coach.
“I used to be a very emotional player … I would get down on myself and the coaches have done a good job at helping me out with that,” said Hazlett. “I’m now able to let things go … and not dwell on them throughout the game.”
Hazlett’s tenacity has been part of her character since day one. Her competitive edge extends to the rest of the team as well — they want to win.
“I’ve always been a very competitive person … we’ve set such high expectations for our team this year that I don’t think there’s anyone that goes out on the floor that would be okay with a loss.”
Throughout their five years at Queen’s, Hazlett and Pearson have learned to read each other’s movements and tendencies on the hardwood. They’ve grown accustomed to leading by example for the younger players and increasing player chemistry.
“I think we’ve just developed into a little duo of knowing what the other is going to do and how the other will react,” Hazlett said.
Central to this relationship between the Gaels’ point guard and their post player is building team comradery, which has been accomplished in part through trips that have made the team feel more like a group of friends.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to go on team trips,” Pearson said. “In my first year, Emily and I got the opportunity to go to Puerto Rico in December and then a few years ago we went to Vancouver as a team. The next year after that we went to Barcelona in Spain and played there for eight or nine days.”
“We’re a team that just likes to spend time together.”
The Gaels played in Halifax this past Christmas break and Wilson commented on the team environment while on the trip.
“I actually went quite a distance away from the rocks out on Peggy’s Cove just because I wanted to be at a distance to just watch their interactions. They’re a very tight group, and Robyn and Hazlett are a big part of that,” Wilson said.
Hazlett and Pearson have taken it upon themselves over the years to lead and teach the younger players the strokes of Gaels basketball.
“What we’ve always stressed on our team is two-way communication,” Pearson said. “It’s never veterans talking down on rookies. It’s always been an open form of communication and it’s very much mentoring. The younger players do very well to listen and we [veterans] do well to listen to them and answer their questions.”
In addition to this communicative factor behind the Gaels’ success and team building, Hazlett understands the importance of leading by example.
“Being a point guard and in fifth year you have to be [calm],” said Hazlett. “Especially during the big games, so that everyone else sees what your energy level is and sees that you’re calm, cool and collected and that helps the younger players take a step back and take a deep breath.”
With regards to moving forward and looking past graduation, Wilson sees each player leaving a legacy on the team.
“Those two in particular have helped elevate our program to where it is now,” he said. “Robyn [is] the all-time leading rebounder in Queen’s history and has moved up in the OUA top-ten … and Hazlett has done much the same with her energy, from her defensive skills and quickness to her competitiveness and refusal-to-lose-type attitude.”
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