Championship Excitement

1 Posted by - March 17, 2016 - Basketball

It has been a few weeks since I have posted on this blog…we have hit crunch time with Provincial and National Finals and I attended a conference in early March so it has been busy. The last week has been amazing!

On March 5, the Ryerson Women’s Basketball team won their quarter final playoff game against Queen’s in their home gym in front of a raucous crowd, earning a spot in the Ontario University Athletics final four tournament in Ottawa. We left for Ottawa by bus first thing on Thursday morning a week ago from the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Once arriving in Ottawa and checking into the hotel the team headed to the University of Ottawa gym for practice. On Friday night they faced the Windsor Lancers at 8 pm. Windsor the reigning OUA and CIS champions had beat us when we faced them in the regular season. In fact the Ryerson team has not beat Windsor in any match up in many years. The Ryerson team went to the OUA final four last year and faced Windsor in the final game and lost to receive the silver medal. So this game had lots of meaning on many levels. Winning this game was their ticket to the gold medal game. It was their opportunity to beat Windsor after so many disappointing losses. It was also their ticket to a second appearance at the CIS National Championship.

Coach Clarke seemed to me to be very confident. In the preceding months the team had worked on a lot of things and even someone like me who knows little about the technical details of the game could see that they had improved, in particular defensively. She told them they were ready. They seemed to be ready. I was of course nervous and scared. I so wanted them to be successful after watching how hard they all worked since August. There were lots of players parents including my own basketball obsessed Mom who made the trip to Ottawa to cheer them on.

They clearly were ready because they won the game. It was a definitely a battle but they were clearly ready. This meant for the second consecutive year this Ryerson team would have the opportunity to compete in the final game for an OUA championship. Something that Ryerson has never won in its history. It has come close…this team came close last year, the Men’s basketball team has come close in previous years, the Men’s soccer team has come close. Both the Men’s and Women’s volleyball teams came very close this year with the opportunity to play the reigning champs in their final games. But no team has ever brought the banner home to Ryerson. Saturday night this Ryerson Women’s basketball team had another shot and at the very same time the Ryerson Men’s basketball team would have their shot in Toronto competing against Carleton in the final OUA championship game.

So we arrived back at Monpetit Hall at the University of Ottawa on Saturday around 6:30 for the 8:00 game, after checking out of our hotel. We were handed the key to a Visitor’s change room – the smallest, most cramped change room we have seen at any school all season. It was hot and crowded and there was not enough room for everyone on the team to sit down. The athletic therapists set up a table in the hallway outside the room to do their work taping ankles and hands and shoulders and backs. After the bronze medal game between Windsor and McMaster the Ryerson Rams stepped onto the court for a shorter than normal warm up. They went out and played their game, executing the plan that they have been working on all season. At half time they were ahead. I checked Twitter on my phone to see how the men were doing in Toronto. When I saw that the men were behind Carleton by 13 points I knew they would have a battle to get on top of the game. I knew that this women’s team would keep fighting hard to bring Ryerson its first banner.

They did fight hard. Ottawa did not take the lead at any point in the game and the Ryerson Women’s Baskeball team won the 2015/2016 OUA championship. As the players ran onto the court from the bench at the buzzer we were informed that the men had won the OUA championship in Toronto about 20 seconds earlier. They received medals, posed for pictures, and cut down the net. Sofia Paska was named Player of the Game. Two banners for our gym. What a great night.

Me on the ladder after making the last cut and tossing the net to Coach Clarke

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The celebration back in Toronto after the men win the OUA championship

After a post game meeting, changing, showering and packing things up we got on the bus after 11 pm. for the trip back to Toronto. The first 2-3 hours of that trip was a loud music, dance in the aisles celebration of the win. The whole time Coach Clarke was wearing that cut down net around her neck. As we were on the road the clock moved an hour ahead at 2 am. and we landed back at the Mattamy Athletic Centre after 5 am. on Sunday.

Monday was a normal school/work day followed by our usual scheduled practice at 6 pm. The President of the university showed up to practice to wish the team well at the National Championship as did Toronto city counsellor Norm Kelly.

A picture with 6-Dad Norm Kelly at practice Monday night

Tuesday morning the team loaded a bus to the airport at 7 am. to travel to New Brunswick. When you only learn whether you will be attending the national tournament 3-4 days before departing it can be challenging to get over 20 people there together. So it was a long journey. A few players got on an earlier flight and most of us took a 10 am. flight to Halifax. We were all reunited in Halifax around 1 pm. and we boarded a bus for a 4 hour ride to Fredericton.

At the Halifax airport making our way to board the bus to Fredericton

The bus went directly to the gym at UNB to drop off the team for their scheduled practice while a few of us went with the bus to the hotel to unload all the luggage. After practice and dinner everyone got some rest.

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Practice in the UNB gym where the tournament will take place

Yesterday involved practice, study time, team meetings and in the evening the CIS Awards ceremony.

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This Squad cleans up well – at the awards presentation

At this event 5th year Guard, Keneca Pingue-Giles, the first player I profiled this year on the blog, won the CIS Player of the Year in women’s basketball. She is the first female athlete at Ryerson to win a national player of the year title.

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Our men’s team travelled to Vancouver to compete in the CIS National Championship at UBC where they are the first seed.  Last night the Men’s Head Coach Patrick Tatham won CIS Coach of the Year. The first time a Ryerson coach has won national coaching honours.

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At practice this morning prepping for the first game against Regina tonight

Today the tournaments start start at UNB and UBC. Ryerson Women had a practice/shooting opportunity this morning and now the players are resting and doing school work as we wait for our turn on the court at 8 pm. (Atlantic time) facing Regina. I think that they are ready.

I clearly picked the right season to join is team.

 

To follow all of the tournament action live visit here.