Hawks cap best year in team history

WINDSOR, Ont. – On Sunday the Laurier women’s basketball team beat the University of Toronto Varsity Blues to claim the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) consolation title, ending their season as the nation’s fifth-best team.

But what the 64-57 win represents is far more important.

The win puts the finishing touch on an unprecedented season for the Golden Hawks, with the fifth-place finish marking the highest in team history. However, just by qualifying for this past weekend’s CIS Final Eight, this year’s team made it further than any other Laurier women’s basketball squad, and overall 2010-11 marks a massive step forward for the program.

“It’s very big for our program,” said Laurier head coach Paul Falco. “These are the top teams in the country and we’re starting to show that we can compete with them.”

The Hawks went 2-1 overall in their first appearance in the CIS Final Eight, losing a tough game to the number-two nationally ranked — and eventual CIS silver medalist — Saskatchewan Huskies in the quarter finals and then beating the Carleton Ravens in the consolation semifinals. The win over Carleton marked the first victory at nationals in Laurier women’s basketball history.

According to Falco, that was just one of many marks the team set this year.

“We’ve had a number of firsts this season,” he said. “Being ranked in the top 10 was a first, qualifying the way we did was a first and then now we have our first win at nationals and it’s great.”

Along with the various “team firsts” the Hawks set this year, their road to nationals was also something special. After posting their best regular season since 2004-05 — finishing 15-7, third in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West — Laurier set off on a spree of post-season upsets on their way to the consolation title.

First, the Hawks downed the number-three nationally ranked Western Mustangs in the OUA West semifinals and then knocked off the Regina Rams — who took over the number three spot after Western’s loss to Laurier — in the CIS west regional, vaulting them into nationals.

But upsets and team records aside, this team was simply special.

“This season has been unbelievable,” said Laurier fifth-year Mallory Kohlmeier. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It tops any other year.”
“This is honestly the best team I’ve played on in my years at Laurier,” added Megan Grant, another graduating Hawk.

The Hawks certainly burst onto the scene in a big way this year, not just as a team but also individually. Falco was named OUA West coach of the year, while rookie point guard Felicia Mazzerolle won rookie of the year, the first time Laurier has taken home those awards since 2002-03. Fifth-year Renata Adamczyk was also recognized, winning the Joy Bellinger award which recognizes a player for outstanding service to the sport and to the advancement of university athletics.
Adamczyk was also named a first-team all-star, while Mazzerolle made the all-rookie team.

While the Hawks lose key contributors Kohlmeier, Grant and Adamczyk next season, the breakout performances of Mazzerolle and fellow first-years Doreen Bonsu and Kim Yeldon leave plenty of room for optimism. Add in the return of fourth-year Christa Mancino and third-year Amber Hillis, and according to Falco, the team shouldn’t miss a beat.

“We have players that are ready to take on the torch,” he said. “Christa and Amber have been solid leaders and they’re ready to step up. And then we had rookies that got a lot of playing time and experience.”

No matter where the Hawks are ranked coming into next season, one thing’s for sure: Laurier has become a force in CIS women’s basketball.

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