Women’s basketball season preview with Coach Paul Falco

Photo by Darrien Funk

After sitting down a few weeks ago with basketball guard, Cassidy Hirtle, it was obvious to see the amount of excitement and positive energy that is currently happening within the Laurier women’s basketball program. 

As a basketball fan, I always want to hear from the players, coaches, and everyone else who plays a role in shaping the team’s season. Laurier Women’s head coach Paul Falco, who is entering his 14th season as the team’s leader, sat down with me to share his thoughts and plans for the upcoming season. A season that should be electrifying, given over 600 days off.

With preseason wrapped up, and the Golden Hawks finishing with a 3-1 record, the Golden Hawks are preparing to tip off their season this Wednesday, Nov. 3 against Brock University in St. Catharines. 

Coach Falco told me he has been getting the student-athletes in shape by implementing a style of play where there is a lot of transition scoring and a “more disruptive and destructive defense.”

“We’ve been able to create a lot of turnovers and that has helped us spark the transition game, and that’s been a focus this year, trying to score in transition,” Coach Falco said on what the team did well during the preseason matchups. 

Second-year guard Cassidy Hirtle told me that the team has 11 new women apart of the squad for this season. Falco is optimistic about the challenge and the opportunity for many fresh faces, saying that it has to lead to a “very enthusiastic group.” 

“Combined being off a year and a half there is a lot of enthusiasm in the gym. We’ve seen that in them and in the games and in the practices… having that energy and life in the gym.”

Of course, having a young core can be quite difficult with the lack of experience that it can bring onto the court. However, the younger group has a lot of positives that can weigh out the negatives. 

“The enthusiasm they all bring to the gym, also brings a lot of competitiveness and passion to the game,” Falco said. “If we keep learning from our mistakes and get better every day then we should be where we want to be as the season goes on.”

The young team will be a pivotal part of the program’s identity this year with only a few players returning to the team from the previous season in 2019-20. In turn, the next big part of the upcoming season is regarding scheduling. This year the Golden Hawks will be playing the same team twice in essentially a two-game series. When they play Brock on November 3rd, they’ll come back to Waterloo for their home opener on November 6th, playing in the Badgers in the second end of the back-to-back. 

“It’s a game of adjustments,” said Falco. “I think the biggest thing for us is merging and understanding that the overall goal is we’re trying to get better every game.”

The goal of the season this year for the team is to progress positively as the season goes on and by the end of it be cutting down the nets in the championship game.  It has been a few years since the program has won a playoff game and Coach Falco has his ambitions set on that this year. 

“Playing the same team twice in a row can be difficult if coming off a loss and losing the motivation to play them again,” said Coach. 

The adjustments, while trying to get better each day will have to be something that is enforced greatly in the Golden Hawks mentality this season. 

The transition game in basketball is something that is being seen more frequently in play. Longer passes, shorter dribbles, quick shots, and quick movements are now how teams are putting points on the board. 

The season before COVID-19, the Golden Hawks were ranked in the bottom tier of field goal percentages. This year Falco is trying to change that. The transition game helps by getting quick and easy baskets at the rim, taking open looked shots, layups, and getting fouled to shoot free throws. 

“If we can score in transition, those shots are normally high percentages on scoring… being patient in our offense and waiting for the high percentage looks is something that we have talked about as a team,” said Falco. 

The saying defence wins you championships is something that is emphasized always in basketball. 

“We want to be disruptive on defence,” Falco said, emphasizing another key idea into the game plan for the season and a crucial part of his over decade-long coaching stint with the Golden Hawks. 

This year should be another exciting year of women’s varsity basketball at Laurier. With the young core there is a lot of excitement to watch and plenty of optimism in the fold. A lot of speed, youth, energy, enthusiasm and of course fun, have all been integrated into the team’s identity, which makes for one of the most unique seasons yet. 

The opener against the Badgers on Wednesday night can be seen on OUA TV, while tickets for the home opener, Saturday at 4pm are available for purchase on Laurier Athletics website. All home games will be played at the Athletic complex gym on Laurier’s campus.

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