Struggles continue for Women’s Basketball
For Laurier’s women’s basketball team, a long winter break was seemingly just what was needed to turn around a recent slump and resolve some nagging injury troubles.
After reeling off a five game win streak early in the year, propelling the team to an impressive 6-3 record after nine games, the Golden Hawks dropped their final three contests of 2019, leaving the team at 6-6 entering the new year.
During the entirety of both of those streaks, Laurier battled multiple injuries, including a serious and lengthy injury to fourth-year starter Rachel Woodburn, that forced the team to constantly juggle lineups before every game.
“I thought going into the break it had been a decent first term,” said head coach Paul Falco.
“We’ve done well given the different lineups we’ve had to put out there.”
The team’s first test after the month-long break came last week in a much anticipated matchup against cross-town rivals at the University of Waterloo.
The Battle of Waterloo is always a game that is circled on both team’s calendars, but this matchup was even more important, as it was the first time that these two teams would meet this season.
The Golden Hawks, despite being down after the first quarter, battled back to take the lead going into the half, thanks to strong efforts on both sides of the ball in the second quarter.
Unfortunately, Waterloo pushed back strong in the third quarter, stymieing Laurier’s offense to only six points in the quarter, and mounting themselves an 11 point lead going into the fourth.
Despite a valiant effort to fight back, including a late push in the final three minutes of the game, the Golden Hawks fell just short, ultimately losing by a score of 70-65.
“Overall, we weren’t very pleased with the result, especially on the defensive end,” mentioned Falco.
“We’ve generally played some pretty good defense in the first term, and this is the first game back after a long break, and sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get from a team.”
Falco continued by saying “to give up that many points and a lot of key baskets, we weren’t too pleased … We’ve got to go back to work and get back on track defensively.”
One positive to take from the loss was that Laurier seemed to be clicking offensively for most of the game, with four players recording double digits in points.
Leading the way on the offensive end was third-year guard Maya Day, who scored 14 points while also grabbing nine rebounds and picking up seven assists.
Laurier’s next chance to get back in the win column came a few days after the Waterloo game.
The Golden Hawks stayed at home for a matchup with the the sixth ranked women’s basketball team in Canada, the Winsdor Lancers.
This was the second matchup between the two teams this season as they met a few months ago for a game in Windsor.
“We played them the second game of the season and, except for one quarter, we were right with them,” mentioned Coach Falco.
“They’re well balanced, they’re experienced and they’re playing pretty well right now. [Overall], they’re a tough team.”
The second matchup between the teams proved to be very similar to the first, with the Golden Hawks hanging in with the Lancers in the first half, with Laurier only down by five points.
However, Windsor showed in the third quarter why they now boast a record of 11-1 on the season, pouring in an impressive 25 points in the quarter to pull away with a large lead.
Laurier simply didn’t have enough in the fourth quarter to pull back into the game, ultimately dropping the contest by a score of 75-57.
Similarly to the matchup against Waterloo, it was Laurier’s defense which the team had relied heavily upon in the first half of the season, that let them down once again, allowing Windsor to score just a few too many baskets.
The one standout for Laurier despite the loss was fourth-year forward Tayania Siwek-Smith, who put in her best performance of the season so far, scoring 13 points and three rebounds in limited minutes off the bench.
Despite the tough start to 2020 so far, Coach Falco is still optimistic about his team going forward.
“We are hopeful to make a good push here in the second term – we just got off on the wrong foot. Overall, we think we are in a decent spot to make a run.”
“We’ve challenged some of the top teams in some close games in the first term,” Falco said, “and hopefully we can knock some of them off [during] the second term.”
In order to make a push to the playoffs in the second half, Falco pointed out a few key areas of improvement for the team.
“We need to reduce our turnovers and we need to become a better offensive rebounding team, [in order] to improve our point production,” Falco said.
Following the two losses to open 2020, the Golden Hawks slump has now reached five straight losses.
The team now holds a record of 6-8, putting them fourth in the OUA West division.
Laurier is comfortably ahead of Waterloo and Algoma, who hold the bottom two spots of the division.
Western and Windsor have put together stellar seasons and seemingly will finish with the top two spots in the west.
However, Laurier is a game behind Guelph for third place in the division and coach Falco knows he has work to do in the second half of the season if they want to catch the Gryphons.
Laurier’s next game is a big one as they will travel to Guelph to play that very Gryphons team with tip-off scheduled for 6:00 tonight.
With a win, they will leapfrog Guelph to become third in the standings.
This will be the second meeting between the teams, as Laurier defeated the Gryphons here at home on Nov. 20.
A 55-51 win that was in the midst of the teams five game winning streak
With eight games remaining in the regular season, Laurier needs to start stringing some wins together to ensure that they are still playing well come playoff time.